Alas, Heloise is pregnant and is sent away to live with Abelard's sister. He remains behind, still teaching, protected by the Bishop who wants this academic magnet to continue drawing in droves of students. But there's a villain in this piece. Heloise's uncle sees to it that the same thing is done to Abelard as was done to Paul Newman in "Sweet Bird of Youth," the play, not the movie. I haven't read the written material this movie is based on, so can't compare the two, but the plot at this point seems to get pretty twisted. Heloise seems determined enough to live with Peter, even in his emasculated condition, but he decides that he wants to become a priest and would like her to join the church as well, though a less likely nun is hard to imagine.
Later they are thrown together again -- as priest and nun -- as part of a group building a church in the wilderness. Then they're separated for good.
It all seems so distant in time now, so far away, so "medieval." But it really isn't. Not if you've been around for a while. It wasn't that long ago in the USA that "illegitimate pregnancy" constituted a scandal. (Vide, "A Place in the Sun".) Abortions were illegal. (Not that that stopped them from being performed, to the tune of about one million a year.) It was in the 1950s that an American woman made headlines by traveling to Sweden in order to have a legal abortion. Women of means who became pregnant out of wedlock had to leave town on the pretext of an extended visit to a relative in order to bear a child. (Arguments in favor of multicultural curricula should take diachronic differences into account as well as geographic ones; that way we can get back to basics. You want to experience the "other"? Read The Iliad.)
I congratulate the people who made this film. (They seem to include performers like Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale.) What they've done is produce an intelligent tale of life in medieval Europe in which the clashes involve philosophies, not armies. It's a bold stroke, making a movie like this to be released to a generation grown up on violent computer games.
Abelard and Heloise are part of our cultural heritage. Their names are linked, like Beatrice and Dante, Laura and Petrarch, Romeo and Juliet, Hero and Leander, Narcissus and Narcissus. And this film about Abelard and Heloise is engaging too, not merely instructional. I'm not exactly sure what a "steamy bodice-ripper" is. If it's anything like the abysmal "Mandingo," or the blockbusting "Gone With the Wind," then this isn't an example of it, although the nudity is enjoyable. I commend too the production designer, an always underrated artist. There's a recent tendency for pictures about this period to be gloomy and dank, but here we have refreshingly brightly painted interiors, walls with wispy pastel murals, and the director gives them their due. Wardrobe too is convincing, without being in-your-face about it. I never realized how quickly and easily one could slip out of all those billowing robes and things until I saw the love scenes here.
Yes, all around, sad but a good show.