EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|NUN'S STORY, THE (director: Fred Zinnemann; screenwriter: Robert Anderson/from the novel by Kathryn Hulme; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Walter Thompson; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Audrey Hepburn (Gabrielle Van Der Mal/Sister Luke), Peter Finch (Dr. Fortunati), Edith Evans (Mother Emmanuel Superior General), Dame Peggy Ashcroft (Mother Mathilde), Dean Jagger (Dr. Van Der Mal), Mildred Dunnock (Sister Margharita), Patricia Collinge (Sister William), Colleen Dewhurst (Archangel Gabriel, asylum patient), Lionel Jeffries (Doctor Goovaerts), Niall MacGinnis (Father Vermeuhlen), Beatrice Straight (Mother Christophe), Ruth White (Mother Marcella); Runtime: 149; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Blanke; Warner Home Videos; 1959)|
|"... on target and godlike."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A mostly forgotten pic
but in its day it was the most
successful movie Warner
Brothers ever made, with grosses surpassing the $7
Director Fred Zinnemann
Hatful of Rain"/"Oklahoma!") keeps
this serious film on the
selfless inward religious life for the devout, set in the 1930s and
1940s, on target and
godlike. It's a difficult task, indeed, to mount a
Hollywood pic on the
inner-life struggles of a conflicted nun, who feels
she doesn't have
the proper humility to serve God and much to his
credit Zinnemann does
it without gloss in an understated way.
It's based on the
best-seller novel by Kathryn Hulme and is written by
Robert Anderson. It was
filmed on location
in Central Africa. I found it more tolerable than I
considering the subject is so gloomy, the musical
score by Franz Waxman
is so nauseating, and the drama is more book worthy
friendly. Even though I respected the filmmaking, I
still found the
tasteful character study too long and at times too
inert to get excited
over its mild reflections over the battle to gain
humility and that
nuns also have human desires for love and family and
are capable of
leaving the convent when push comes to shove.
The film was not
controversy, as the Catholic
Church raised objections - targeting that
"the story of a dedicated nun leaving the order would
not be good for
recruitment." Dominican advisers reviewed the script,
debating the use
of phrases such as "against Nature"
vs. "above Nature." Though the film was certainly not
it didn't offer the Church in either a friendly
comical or a glowing reverential light as most
Hollywood pics did back
in the day--it was not afraid to expose its dark side
stereotyping its authority figures.
It's the simple story
Belgian girl Gabrielle
Der Mal (Audrey Hepburn),
from Bruges, a
respected surgeon's (Dean Jagger) daughter whose dream
was to serve in
the Belgium Congo as a nurse and who later finds some
being a missionary nun.
headstrong Gabrielle takes the nun's vow and goes by
the name Sister
Luke. Trained in nursing school, Sister Luke finds it
abide by the strict rules of the Order--such as their
silence. After nursing school, Mother
Marcella (Ruth White) accuses Sister
Luke of having too much pride
assigns her to an asylum in Belgium instead of the
Congo as requested.
Sister Luke tries to be dedicated in serving others,
nearly killed by a dangerous schizophrenic
(Colleen Dewhurst) after she thought that she could
control the patient
by not going by the book in carrying out procedures.
After some three
years, Sister Luke's sent by the Mother to the Congo
and is assigned to
work for the
chief-surgeon, Dr. Fortunati (Peter
Finch), in the
for the Europeans instead of working with the natives
as desired. The
handsome agnostic bachelor doc gets her to let go of
her idealism and
become more practical-minded, and takes her along to a
The hard-working nun, meanwhile, back in the hospital
tuberculosis while working around the clock. Through
efforts, Sister Luke recovers and is taken off duty
for some R&R
and is sent back to Europe to accompany a patient.
Sister Luke is then
ordered by Reverend
(Edith Evans) to
return to the convent. When
World War II erupts, Sister Luke follows the edicts of her order
and does not take
sides. This becomes nearly impossible when in occupied
beloved widowed dad is executed by the Nazis for
aiding refugees to
escape. Wth that jolt, Sister Luke realizes she made a
leaves the order
to return to an uncertain "civilian" life.
Hepburn gives the ultimate performance of her career, in a part she was born to play. Though nominated for an Oscar, she lost to Simone Signoret (Room at the Top). Some thirty years later Hepburn returned to Africa to help the underprivileged, a cause she stuck with for the rest of her life.
REVIEWED ON 4/12/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ