The Nun’s Story (1959)

nuns

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Peter Finch, Dame Edith Evans, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Dean Jagger, Mildred Dunnock, Beatrice Straight, Patricia Collinge, Barbara O’Neil

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Summary: The daughter of a Belgian surgeon enters a convent in hopes of serving god as a nursing nun in the Congo.

Other Nominations: Director, Actress (Hepburn), Adapted Screenplay, Dramatic/Comedy Score, Sound Recording, Color Cinematography, Film Editing

Positives

-Because she’s such a sole focus of this movie, the film lives or dies on Hepburn’s performance which is excellent. Throughout the course of the movie, you see the weariness on her face grow and grow along with her general body language; Hepburn herself frequently called it her best performance. Credit also has to go to the makeup department as well: her at the beginning: http://showbizgeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Screen-Shot-2013-05-08-at-21.45.42.png; her at the end: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/The-Nuns-Story.jpg.

Negatives

-The movie starts out as an interesting examination of the life of nun (circa late 1920’s-1930’s) and how much sacrifice, dedication and detachment from everything that makes you an individual is required, and it’s presented in a way that’s intelligent and matter of fact. However, after the first 30 minutes, it dawns on you that the rest of the movie is just going to be this for another 2 hours, making it a 150 minute movie mostly comprised of watching Hepburn being miserable as a nun. She has some brief moments of happiness that keep her going, mainly treating people in the Congo with Peter Finch, but other than that, it’s a steady decline into complete misery. There’s the obvious question that we don’t get any kind of a good resolution to until the very end (which is the best scene in the movie): why does she continue doing it? It is clear she signed a 3 year contract when she confirmed she was to be a nun after about 6 months of training although 1) it’s not like there are any real repercussions for breaking it and 2) it’s not clear why she signed it to begin with, she was already miserable and getting nothing out of it. Basically, she wants to help people as a nurse, but there’s no given reason for why she couldn’t have just been a regular nurse. At the bottom line, the movie really has a big problem: I never really got the sense that she’s an exceptionally religious person, which is kind of a fundamental problem with the movie. The entire movie is about her crisis of faith, but rarely do we get to see anything showing her being someone of incredible faith to begin with, just a lot of talking about it.

Overall

There’s an excellent performance from Audrey Hepburn and the movie starts out interesting enough, but it gets really old really fast and it’s missing a real sense of justification for Hepburn to continue with her suffering after a while.

Rating: C-

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