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You might say "Therese" is a religious film, but then one could also make the argument that this film displays an asceticm both neurotic and self-absorbed. It is certainly not the standard by which we judge "spirituality" these days; however for centuries this is the way a good part of Christendom sought the divine.
This film is certainly anything but boring. It is unusual, enlightening and a small delight to the senses in much the manner of an Emily Dickinson poem.
Catherine Mouchet does not play the part:she is Therese.But this role left its mark so deeply on her career that it was very hard for her to find a follow-up. So far,she did not.
Cavalier made his movie from a completely impartial standpoint.He shows us the dark side of this convent life: -Give her morphin,the doctors says!as Therese develops tuberculosis
-Our saviour didn't have any ,a nun answers.
-But he only suffered for a few hours!
-He's STILL suffering when he sees our poor world.
If you are looking for something different,for something which maybe will make you see the others differently,take a chance on this movie.
NB:After the critically-acclaimed "Thérèse" ,Jean Delannoy tried to jump onto the bandwagon and made a "Bernadette" who got unanimous thumbs down
In spite of these strengths, the movie has its weaknesses and it does not (in my opinion) give a complete picture of Therese. One aspect of Therese that it does not do a good job of showing is her great intelligence, which really shines through when one reads her writings. Therese in this movie often seems to be a female counterpart of Gomer Pyle, a sort of dimwitted young Sister who smiles at the sufferings Jesus throws her way in much the same way that Gomer might smile after receiving a butt-chewing from Sgt. Carter. Her keen mental prowess is seen mainly in the first few scenes of the movie as she plots to save the souls of sinners and to gain entrance to the convent--once entering the convent, one gets the sense that Therese is nothing if not witless.
While portraying the mortification of the flesh that Therese practiced as a Carmelite (e.g. by wearing a cross close to her chest that had nails in the back of it), the movie does not show other important aspects of Therese's convent life that are less jarring but more important to understanding her philosophy. For example, one hardly sees Therese's "little way," the constant small sacrifices that she made for her Carmelite sisters on a daily basis that went largely unnoticed during her lifetime. The movie tends to dwell too much on those aspects of Carmelite tradition (and of Therese's life) that are more jarring to modern sensibilities and less on aspects of her life that might be perceived as more admirable. For example, one doesn't see that Therese was a prolific writer for her entire adult life (which she was, churning out enough letters, poems, prayers, and plays over nine years to fill several books--not to mention her autobiography). Therese was also a strong and exacting leader, put in charge of the novices for a few years toward the end of her life; in the movie she is portrayed as more of a servile follower.
The movie, while not overtly taking sides as to the veracity of Therese's faith, does seem to view the 19th century nunnery through a late 20th-century lens by portraying things that would not have been discussed if they ever had happened. For example, one nun seems to have (barely) repressed lesbian tendencies While another appears to be a man who has managed to pass as a sister. While titillating the imaginations of moviegoers by throwing in a bit of scandal, these anecdotes do little to help us understand who Therese really was.
Perhaps a 90-120 minute movie can never give total balance to any person, but the Therese that is portrayed in this movie is not the same sharp, tough-yet-sentimental figure whom I met in her writing. As a piece of cinematography, though, it does have its own strengths and should not be passed up solely because of the weaknesses I have outlined.
It won the 1987 César Awards for Best Film, Best Writing, and Best Editing. The film also won the Jury Prize at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. Catherine Mouchet won the César Award for Most Promising Actress for 1987 for her performance. Did she fulfill that promise? Although still acting thirty years later (2016), I think it is safe to say that "Therese" remains Mouchet's best known film.
Which is not to say she shouldn't be known for it, because it really does capture the lie of a saint in a modest and respectful way. I am not terribly religious, but I see the appeal and this would make an excellent film to show to younger people about devotion and faith. The world has fewer nuns these days, and perhaps that is a mistake.