By pure (I'm guessing) coincidence, this film is playing a limited engagement at the same time as Philomena is on blanket release: both have Oscar-worthy performances from the leading actress and both portray the Catholic Church as Draconian, a view with which I am in total agreement. If the name Isabelle Huppert brings people into screenings of The Nun (there were seven in the audience at the performance I attended) then this will be a good thing. Huppert appears only in the last couple of reels but she is prominent from then on but it is the young lead actress, Pauline Etienne, who is in virtually every scene and dominates the film whilst hardly raising her voice, let alone her eyes. Apparently there was an earlier version (it's an adaptation of a well- known novel by Diderot) in 1966, but it would have had to go some to equal let alone eclipse this version. I'll confess freely that I've nodded off in films paced at four or five times the speed of this but I remained awake for every frame. It's a pretty harrowing tale whichever way you look at it and the setting - France in the 1760s - doesn't help. Our heroine, the youngest of three sisters, enjoying a bourgeois existence, is sent, much against her will, to a convent, ostensibly for s set period then, nearing the end of her tenure, is told that her parents wish her to stay and actually take the veil. The reason given is that underwriting the weddings of the two elder sisters has depleted the family funds, not the most convincing argument I've ever heard, but there you go. Terribly unhappy and totally unsuited for the life, she refuses to go through with the ceremony and finds a sympathetic ear in the Mother Superior, but, wouldn't you know, she is replaced by a martinet who soon has our heroine scrubbing floors, tied up, denied food and a chamber pot, all, of course, in the name of our Lord. A note smuggled out brings a result of sorts and the second Mother Superior is replaced and our heroine transferred to another convent under the auspices of Isabelle Huppert, who is immediately drawn to the girl and is soon begging for kisses and creeping into her cell in the small hours. Boy, that's some church you got there, Lord.
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