Based on a 1926 novel by Georges Bernanos (on whose writings Robert Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST and MOUCHETTE are also based), this movie stars Depardieu as a fanatically devoted young priest who firmly believes in the power of the Devil. Conscious of the weakness of the flesh,
Depardieu brutally flagellates himself with chains, growing spiritually strong as his body deteriorates. Concerned by the unfaltering strength of Depardieu's devotion is his Father Superior, played by director Pialat, whom Depardieu considers a dilettante who only half-heartedly follows the ways
of the Lord. As Depardieu goes about testing his spirit, a 16-year-old village girl, Bonnaire, is testing the power of her flesh. Pregnant by one man and mistress to others, Bonnaire murders the man who impregnated her and flees her town and parents, eventually leading to a confrontation with
Depardieu. Named the winner of the Palme d'Or for Best Picture at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, UNDER SATAN'S SUN became a center of controversy. The first French picture to win the top prize since 1966's A MAN AND A WOMAN, Maurice Pialat's film was, according to its opponents, chosen only
because the French festival was celebrating its 40th year and wanted to be represented by a French entry. When Pialat accepted his award, he was greeted with a round of boos. Regardless of its detractors' claims, however, UNDER SATAN'S SUN is a film with spiritual power and an important subject.
Strongly reverent, the picture recalls the works of Bresson (especially through its Bernanos connection) in its attempt to transcend conventional religion. Slow, deliberate, static, and literal, the film itself induces spiritual introspection. Unfortunately, its style lacks the inspiration to
match the spiritual devotion of its characters. While the story is Depardieu's, and to a lesser degree Bonnaire's, the picture's style is more in accord with that of the Father Superior (perhaps it's no coincidence that Pialat cast himself in this role)--a character who lacks spiritual passion.
(In French; English subtitles.)
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- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on a 1926 novel by Georges Bernanos (on whose writings Robert Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST and MOUCHETTE are also based), this movie stars Depardieu as a fanatically devoted young priest who firmly believes in the power of the Devil. Conscious… (more)