Film Title: The Nun
Director: Guillaume Nicloux
Starring: Pauline Etienne, Isabelle Huppert
Running Time: 135 min
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the cinema, this bland, sanitised French heritage drama hits our screens, leaving little lasting impression, though
watching it may cause parts of your poor underused brain to fall out.
Wimples have seldom looked more wobbly.
It’s not that The Nun is bad, exactly. A handsomely mounted reworking of Denis Diderot’s 18th-century yarn about sex and clerics, La Religieuse follows a virtuous young dullard as she attempts to wriggle out of a religious life.
Up-and-coming Belgian actor Pauline Etienne works hard to animate the unifying construct – Character? Not quite! – at the heart of the drama, but this proves impossible in a project that began life as a class of aristocratic prank. Diderot’s once-racy tale of (near) hot nun-on-nun action is now too tame, too nice and altogether too restrained for modern tastes.
Huppert’s lecherous lesbian Mother Superior promises to enliven the proceedings with some Piano Teacher posturing and Ma Mère cornice-munching, but the material fails to deliver enough scenery for the Grand Dame to chew into.
As with many early novels, the narrative is episodic and ill-suited to movie form. Thus, our damsel in distress faces down little nuisances and petty tyrannies rather than a great evil. On paper, this might translate into one girl’s battle
with societal, patriarchal ills; onscreen it plays like Melmoth the Wanderer without the devil. Or
It’s odd to think that Jacques Rivette’s 1967 film of the same material caused a scandal and a censorship debate as Jean Luc Godard and his fellow intellectuals faced down the Catholic Church. More than three decades later, this newer version won’t scare any horses, never mind any bishops. Pointless.