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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 <email@example.com>
Liselotte Pulver is STUNNING, nothing but STUNNING
Playing a role that few people thought would ever fit her and shadowed by vultures predicting disaster, Liselotte Pulver delivered the surprise coup of many a cinematic season in the icily directed 'La Religieuse'.
Ms. Pulver, the beloved eternal comedienne of the German cinema, has taken on that most daunting role: the lesbian Mother Superior, the ultimate debauched nun in the ultimate 'Why was the Revolution necessary?' tale, Denis Diderot's grand tale 'La Religieuse'. Working against type and expectation under the direction of Jaques Rivette, Ms. Pulver has created the most complex and compelling portrait of her long career, and she has done this in ways that deviate radically from her former screen roles.
Ms. Pulver's Mother Superior, emerges in this adaptation with her monumental weakness intact. But something new and affecting is simmering within the character, a damning glimpse of self-awareness. You get the sense that if her frantic movement stops for a second, she'll deflate into a small and bitter creature.
In films like 'Die Züricher Verlobung' and 'Das Wirtshaus I'm Spessart' Ms. Pulver's persona has always been that of a delectable waif, a vulnerable creature with a heart of gold. Here she was cast against type and rumors went that she did not get along with Mr. Rivette. And then, halfway through the film, there she was, and for the first time in her long career she didn't look remotely like an ingénue.
Ms. Pulver's portrait is so intimate and persuasive that you aren't allowed to step back and think, 'What a monster she is.' That's because, thanks to this actress's willingness to turn herself and her character inside out, you've been inside her mind. What a sad and fascinating place it is.
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