Revisiting this after watching so many Rivette movies. The sound design, amplifying ordinary noise from clothes, floors and chairs, usually uncovered by music, is the main familiar element. It may be his most tightly structured film, without any improv, though I’d have to watch it back-to-back with Don’t Touch the Axe to be sure.
“In marrying your sisters, we’ve ruined ourselves.” Anna Karina, towards the end of her Godard relationship, is sent to become a nun by her parents against her will in the mid-1700’s. To her, the experience is just like prison, but she manages to sneak out some letters and secures herself a lawyer (soundtrack plays ocean waves when she’s finally allowed to see him), incurring the wrath of head nun Francine Berge (gorgeous baddie of Franju’s Judex), until her punishment is finally noted by Berge’s superiors and Anna is moved to a new convent.
Karina and Berge have a nun-off:
The new one is a pleasure palace, run by clingy lesbian Liselotte Pulver (of A Time to Love and a Time to Die), whom the father confessor tells Anna to avoid like the devil. Anna doesn’t like this place any more than the last one, finally teams up with an amorous monk (Francisco Rabal, whose face was ripped off in Dagon) to escape. Best scene is with him, as she realizes his intentions and the music goes mental.
Karina and Pulver bond:
Anna flees him and he’s captured – oh, and her mom is dead, her friend who talked her into becoming a nun in the first place (Micheline Presle, Depardieu’s relative in I Want To Go Home) is dead, and now her lawyer is dead. Then she flees the village where she’s hiding out, gets picked off the street by a fancy lady, and finally flees her party right out an upper-story window. This made more sense once the internet told me the “fancy lady” was a prostitute, oops. C. Clouzot: “Rivette completes Diderot’s unfinished novel with her suicide.”
brief moment of happiness, post-escape:
the end is near:
Banned in France for over a year, with much public debate leading up to its eventual release. It’s funny now that this movie was considered so outrageous, falling five years after Mother Joan of the Angels and five before The Devils. Quite a good movie, even if not extremely Rivettian. Cinematographer Alain Levent worked on the first films by Chabrol, Rohmer and Truffaut, shot Cleo from 5 to 7, The Nun and later, Sam Fuller’s Day of Reckoning and Madonna and the Dragon. Adapted again (sort of) by Joe D’Amato in the 80’s and there’s a new version out with Isabelle Huppert.