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The Nun’s Story (1959)

The Nun's Story orig poster

On Good Friday in Ireland two things happen:  some people go to a long church service;  other people either shop, wash the car or watch this on TV. This is as close to a religious experience as I have ever had so now you know where I spend the day. Kathryn Hulme’s novel was a roman a clef in all but name about Belgian nun Gabrielle Van Der Mal aka Marie Louise Habets who makes all kinds of sacrifices to pursue a life ruled by the Catholic Church. Her ambition to be a doctor is punished by being sent to nurse in a mental hospital. When she is finally sent to the Congo she struggles with her spirituality and her friendship with a brilliant doctor (Peter Finch as Dr Fortunati) and gets ill from TB. On returning to Europe, the war is on, the Nazis have murdered her father and she is forced to make a decision. Brilliantly adapted  by Robert Anderson, Hepburn delivers a masterful performance under Fred Zinnemann’s conscientious direction.Hepburn did not win the Academy Award for which she was nominated, but should have. In reality, she befriended the subject of the film, which she prepared for meticulously, and when she had a near-fatal riding accident the following year it was the real-life Sister Luke who nursed her back to health. Now that’s showbiz. Stunning.


About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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