ARTE – WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25 AT 8:55 P.M. – FILM
The nun, by Denis Diderot (published posthumously in 1796), is rich enough to admit that the work is the source of two films. The one that Jacques Rivette directed in 1966 (with Anna Karina in the title role) is, by widely held judgment, a masterpiece. It is not by this yardstick that we should measure the success or failure of Guillaume Nicloux who, almost half a century and a few victories for women’s rights and freedom of expression later, tells in his turn the story of Suzanne Simonin, youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant who forces her to take the veil in order to better provide for her older sisters.
Nicloux, “great defender of provocation, in the sense of provoking emotions, debates, an exchange”, has, among other things, made very dark films (A private matter, in 2002, That womanin 2003, The key, in 2007) whose protagonist went through violent, sometimes degrading ordeals, before approaching freedom. This is how the filmmaker sees the martyrdom of Suzanne Simonin: she will not be an insignificant being crushed by a religious and patriarchal system, but a heroine struggling against adversity.
It is not a question of putting the director on trial for heresy, but of noting that this shift does not serve the film. Admittedly, the vital force released by the young actress animates the clashes with the two superior mothers who try to enslave the novice – one through discipline, the other through the senses.
The show is spiced up by the good idea of having subverted the logic of the distribution of roles: Louise Bourgoin embodies the rigorous mother superior while Isabelle Huppert takes on the habit of the sybarite. Suzanne Simonin is interpreted by Pauline Etienne, noticed in 2009 in The beautiful ageby Laurent Perreau, and in Only one takes and the others will follow, by Leah Fehner.
Coming after a skilful prologue, which shows how economic necessities lead his family to get rid of Suzanne – she will be successively recluse in three convents –, this central episode is cut with efficiency, so that we only gradually perceive incessant foot calls to the news. Mother Christine (Louise Bourgoin) is there to remind us of the harmfulness of fundamentalism, her colleague from the convent of Saint-Eutrope (Isabelle Huppert) is the effigy of all the adults who take advantage of their authority to abuse children and adolescents. .
This desire to stage the fight against evils unanimously (or almost) denounced diverts The nun of its original course, until leading it to an end which we will not reveal, but which we must warn Diderot’s readers that it will disconcert them. The best.
The nun, film by Guillaume Nicloux (Fr., Germany, Bel., 2013, 107 min). With Pauline Etienne, Louise Bourgoin, Isabelle Huppert, Martina Gedeck.