The Nun

  • 1966
  • Movie
  • GP
  • Religious

A riveting religious drama set in 18th-century France which casts French New Wave favorite Karina as a young nun forced into the convent for financial reasons. Her stay, however, is anything but blessed, becoming instead a nightmare of sadistic persecution. A wicked mother superior (played to the extreme by Pulver) locks her in her cell with only a little...read more

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A riveting religious drama set in 18th-century France which casts French New Wave favorite Karina as a young nun forced into the convent for financial reasons. Her stay, however, is anything but blessed, becoming instead a nightmare of sadistic persecution. A wicked mother superior

(played to the extreme by Pulver) locks her in her cell with only a little food and water, restricting her from even simple hygiene. An attempt to contact a lawyer and annul her vows is met with refusal and an attempted seduction by Pulver. Karina finally finds her ray of hope in Rabal, who

empathizes with her plight since he, too, was forced into the clergy. She escapes with Rabal's help, but when he also attempts to have his way with her she flees, winding up in a bordello. Tortured to the furthest limits, Karina throws herself from the window, landing on the pavement with her arms

and legs sprawled out like a cross. Based on a novel by Denis Diderot (published in 1796, though written in 1760), THE NUN is based not on a true story but on a practical joke. To get a friend to come from the country to Paris, Diderot wrote him letters in the name of Suzanne Simonin, a nun who

made an unsuccessful attempt to rescind her vows. When Diderot heard that his friend (the Marquis de Croismare) was planning to visit Simonin, he promptly wrote that the nun had killed herself. Rivette (whose first film, PARIS BELONGS TO US, was a forerunner in the New Wave) first adapted the

story for the stage, and only after a number of performances did he bring it to the screen. Without actually being about the theater, as are all Rivette's other pictures, THE NUN oddly is his most theatrical. "It is," in Rivette's words, "extremely written, because it came out of the experience of

working on the stage, and finally because the subject deals with Catholicism, which is the absolute peak of theater." As accessible as the film is (Rivette and Karina both found themselves at the height of their commercial careers), THE NUN still managed to be banned in France. Presumably the

censors objected to the subject matter, though they did approve the script before production began. When it came time for the picture's release in 1966, there was a change of heart and for two years Rivette fought to have the ban lifted. In the meantime, however, the picture was chosen as an

official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. The ban was lifted in 1968, not after editing but after a title change from LA RELIGIEUSE to SUZANNE SIMONIN, LA RELIGIEUSE DE DIDEROT.

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