The Nun gets its first home release on DVD, Bluray and 4K. But we’re not talking about the spiritual prequel to The Conjuring 2 featuring ghostly brides of God, rather Jacques Rivette’s banned piece of French new wave from 1966, based on the novel The Lumieres by Denis Diderot.
In 18th Century France, many women were forced to take vows as a nun due to the poor finances of their family or because they weren’t deemed marriage material. This is what happens to Suzanne (Anna Karina), forced into a convent by her parents as they have spent all their money on the marriages of their other three children. Though she initially finds comfort in her first mother superior, after her death, Suzanne suddenly finds a lack of compassion in her new home. She finds that the replacement is having “nun” of her complaints, and learns they most certainly are not sisters of mercy.
It’s interesting to see nuns and convents depicted in this way, seen less as organisations structured around the glory of God but as somewhere to rid yourself of family problems. Suzanne is a beautiful and lovely young women looking forward to the rest of her life, but because of poor money-handling by her parents and marital infidelity she is damned to a lifetime of servitude. The sins of the parents are passed on to their children. The nuns in the convents themselves are rarely depicted as true Christians, more going through the motions to get by, while the feeling of a boarding school (bullying and all) is created.
It’s difficult to see why The Nun was banned at the time. Perhaps the depiction of nuns as vindictive and bullying people, and even as women in charge of their sexual agency though with predatory tendencies, was seen as being too much. It does seem to be largely unfair censorship, as what is depicted is extremely tame with little violence shown, only almost school playground-style psychological torture, and the sexual elements are never overt or brash.
At over two hours The Nun does push your patience, and it has quite an obvious three act structure which winds itself up very quickly for an abrupt ending, but it’s more often than not quite compelling, bolstered in no small way by the performance from Karina. You feel the despair she goes through, and the complete and abject unfairness of the situation that’s been thrust upon her which is in no way her own. You want to see her come through and go on to live the life she deserves. The framing of the scenes seem to always keep her behind bars, showing the very real imprisonment she suffers without ever being convicted of a crime.
Don’t be fooled by its reputation. The Nun isn’t here for shock value, but tune in to its drama and you’ll find an interesting film helped by a strong central performance.
THE NUN / DIRECTOR: JACQUES RIVETTE / SCREENPLAY: JEAN GRUAULT, JACQUES RIVETTE / STARRING: ANNA KARINA, LISELOTTE PULVER, MICHELINE PRESLE, FRANCINE BERGE / CERT: 12 / RELEASE DATE: 17TH SEPTEMBER 2018