Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review of The Nun's Story

I'm glad that I previewed the Audrey Hepburn movie "The Nun's Story" from 1958. Although unrated, it was classified as "PG" by our library. I would probably let my high school aged children view this one -- because there is no bad language and only mild violence. In the end, however, **spoiler ** = she leaves the convent! I would want to know this beforehand, and so would other Catholic mothers.

The movie is based on Kathryn C. Hulme's book about the experiences of her friend, who was a nurse and an ex-nun in Belgium. "Sister Luke" is portrayed quite respectfully during her novitiate and up to making her final vows with the Carmelites. For its day, this was probably an intimate view of the clergy and convent that many had never seen before. Sister Luke finds her faith tested and struggles with obedience in quite normal ways. She is very smart and full of good intentions. The elder nuns are very supportive and gently loving towards her. But working in the Congo hospital with Dr. Fortunati, she wrestles with her growing esteem for the good doctor. Their interactions are portrayed more like a secular flirtation/attraction, although the author claims this was a fictatious addition by the Hollywood writers. There are also personal conflicts for Sister Luke because of World War II and her Belgian patriotism. In the end, she chooses to leave the convent. Unfortunately, the movie does not address her difficulties after she is free of the convent. The Catholic Bishops web site is kind to this movie, but I doubt it serves much usefulness amongst those discerning a vocation.

Note: Audrey Hepburn actually met Marie-Louise Habets (the former nun) while preparing for the role, and Habets later helped nurse Hepburn back to health following her near-fatal horse-riding accident on the set of the 1960 film "The Unforgiven." Hepburn earned her third Academy Award nomination for "The Nun's Story."


Hélène said...

I have seen this movie and do not recommend it. Both my husband and I felt like it was a subtly-masked anti-Catholic film. I didn't realize that it was based on a true story. Because she does leave, it is very depressing.

My BIL is a monk and when we told him about it, he said that women most often leave because of men, so he wondered if she and the doctor had anything going on between them. It did seem like she struggled with an attraction to the doctor, but I saw it too long ago to be sure.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

I found some discussion on this movie through the link above. I saw it a long time ago, and did not like it at all. It's not just that she leaves the convent... it left me with a bad taste altogether. I agree with Candise and would not--and never did--recommend it.