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In This House of Brede (1975)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama  |  27 February 1975 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 189 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 2 critic

A well-to-do London businesswoman gives up her comfortable life, including the man who loves her, to become a cloistered Benedictine nun.

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Title: In This House of Brede (TV Movie 1975)

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Philippa
Pamela Brown ...
Dame Agnes
Gwen Watford ...
Dame Catherine
Denis Quilley ...
Sir Richard
...
Joanna
Nicholas Clay ...
David
Gladys Spencer ...
Dame Emily
Charlotte Mitchell ...
Mrs. Fraser
Elizabeth Bradley ...
Dame Margaret
Ann Rye ...
Sister Jane
Fanny Rowe ...
Miss Bowman (as Frances Rowe)
Catherine Willmer ...
Sister Renata
...
Dame Beatrice (as Dervla Molloy)
Yasuko Nagazumi ...
Mariko (as Yasuko Magazumi)
Janette Legge ...
Barbara
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Storyline

A well-to-do London businesswoman gives up her comfortable life, including the man who loves her, to become a cloistered Benedictine nun.

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Drama

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27 February 1975 (USA)  »

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4:3
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User Reviews

Somewhat irritating to one who knows the book well
21 July 2004 | by (Patterson, New York) – See all my reviews

In This House of Brede is just about my favorite Rumer Godden novel. However, this adaptation shows the limitations made-for-TV movies labor under better than any other example I could name.

Granted, it's hard to take a 369 page novel spanning more than 20 years and boil it down to something that can be turned into 90 minutes of film. The secret in doing it right is not what you leave, but what you take away and why. In this case, a better job could have been done.

All right; I can see why the whole Duranski subplot went away. It's too hard to film and despite what it reveals about the nuns and their interactions, and how secular people interact with the religious, it does not really advance the plot. Likewise the subplot of Lady Abbess's pectoral cross; it does not really advance the main plot line. Ditto the whole Vatican-II-changes subplot. However, the writer and director did not stop there. In my opinion, deleting the entire Sister Kazuko-Dame Colette plot line was a major mistake; it reduces the entire Japanese novitiate subplot almost to a device. It makes me wonder if the screenwriter missed the whole point of the novel.

The core of the book is about conflicts. Conflicts of self, of want versus duty; conflicts between people; conflicts between the secular and the sacred. Very little of that came through in the final version. Indeed, many of the conflicts were eliminated by the transmogrification of characters. McTurk is gone, with some of his wisdom and understanding grafted onto Sir Richard. Dame Maura is completely eliminated; that was a bad move. The cloying, annoying Dame Veronica has likewise vanished, and with her the conflict between the fluff she writes and the weighty substance of Dame Agnes's work. Dame Agnes herself has been fused with Mother Mistress Emily Lovell in one of the odder recharacterizations I've even seen in a movie, with the result that her edge (Dame Agnes's trademark) is thoroughly blunted. We see the Scallons (Dame Johanna's parents in the movie, Dame Cecily's in the book) only for moments, scarcely long enough to figure out who they are, but not long enough for us to understand why Dame Johanna ended up as she is and where she is. Larry Bannerman, of all the minor characters, is the only one whose part actually illuminated one of the major characters and pointed up best the real conflicts of the religious life as opposed to the secular; far better even than the compare-and-contrast of Philippa Talbot versus Dame Philippa of Brede Abbey.

The best thing about this TV movie is that it points out the crying need for a theatrical feature to be made from this book. It cries for a director with clear vision and a fresco big enough to paint not merely the major portraits, but the miniatures around the edges and in the background. Oh, this 1975 version stands on its own; but it has the same sort of choppiness Cuaron brought to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban, and that does not serve the novel at all well. It requires a slower, more deliberate pace - and above all, a budget big enough that characters do not have to be combined to their detriment, and at least a couple of the plot lines that had to be cut, to be restored.

Even with all these grumbles, there are worse ways to spend an evening than in the company of the nuns of Brede. It's not a bad little movie when all is said and done; it is simply one that could, and should, be done better on the large screen.


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