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1760s France. Suzanne is shocked when her bourgeois family sends her to a convent. There she faces oppression and torment, leading her to fight back and expose the dehumanizing effect of cloistered life.
In eighteenth-century France a girl (Suzanne Simonin) is forced against her will to take vows as a nun. Three mothers superior (Madame de Moni, Sister Sainte-Christine, and Madame de Chelles) treat her in radically different ways, ranging from maternal concern, to sadistic persecution, to lesbian desire. Suzanne's virtue brings disaster to everyone in this faithful adaptation of a bitter attack on religious abuses by the Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot.Written by
English Showalter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although Jacques Rivette was labeled "new wave","la religieuse" is actually an austere work,a bit academic,very close to the pre-new wave generation,very close to Jean Delannoy.By far ,one of the two most palatable works by highbrow Rivette (the other one being the umpteenth version of Joan of Arc,thanks to Sandrine Bonnaire's portrayal).Needless to say ,all other Rivette works are "intellectual" works ,reserved for the happy(?) few ,and they will make yawn your head off.
"La religieuse" caused a big scandal when it was released in the mid-sixties.The Church insisted on calling the movie "Suzanne Simonin ,la religieuse de Diderot".
Released with a PG 18, the movie seems harmless today:yes there's a lesbian nun ,but the crowds have seen worse since.It's a jansenist work,with a very slow pace,faithful to Diderot's novel-which anyway depicted an improbable situation:they did not lock the girls in nunneries anymore ,it was a thing of the past in the XVIII th century-,except for the ending ,but Rivette's one makes sense all in all.
The cinematography is beautiful and anti-nouvelle vague,the actresses convincing:Micheline Presles,a saint of a nun,Anna Karina, her cruel mother's unfortunate victim,and Liselotte Pulver,a bon vivant character who's got a crush on Suzanne .
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