The Nun (1966)

17 07 2008

It may sound a little bit too harsh, but I have a feeling Rivette didn’t quite know what he was doing with this project. That’s not to say that The Nun is an embarrassingly bad effort, but it is at its most interesting when one takes it into account within the context of Rivette’s career. To his credit, he does obtain a very spontaneous style that echoes throughout most of his future and there doesn’t seem to be signs of over-bearing symbolism. With that said, this is also, by far, his least cinematic film. Perhaps the sterile and bland visuals underscore the boredom of convent life, but the absence of Rivette’s usual visual wizardry is great step back. If one takes this as simply a filmed theatrical production, than it would probably be easier to enjoy.

At the age of 18, Suzanne, is forced by her parents to enter into convent life. Her siblings have all had successful marriages, at least in the eyes of their parents. But it turns out that Suzanne is not really part of the family and that her inception came from an affair her mother had. Life in the congregation is not easy for Suzanne, but she learns to adapt, mostly thanks to her superior, Madame de Moni. However, Suzanne soon becomes the responsibility of Sister Sainte-Christine, who treats her poorly, to say the least. As a result, Suzanne transfers to a different congregation, where Madame de Chelles is her superior. Their relationship begins to take on a more lustful route as Chelles’ desire for Suzanne grows.

Seeing as how I’ve never read the source material, I’m not sure how much is Rivette’s and how much is Diderot’s but many scenes have a very improvised sensibility to them, which is no question, the best thing the film seems to have going for it. It’s not even that Anna Karina pulls off a particularly great performance, but rather, just what seems to be a lack of editing on Rivette’s part. This could be read as a criticism, but I see it as one of his more endearing cinematic quirks and it is probably what saves a film like this from just being a simple, straight-forward drama. It’s enjoyable enough as simply that, but indeed, nothing special.