This is the tenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 10 is called "Nun for You Week":
Nuns have enjoyed a rich history in film, from being featured in classics like Black Narcissus and The Sound of Music, through the Nunsploitation era in the 70s, to today as filmmakers are still fascinated by nuns as characters. Nuns are so compelling and can be featured in a wide-range of genres because they represent a fascinating dichotomy between female-empowerment and male authority. Entering a convent could signify a woman wielding her own power over herself and choosing her own path for a life absent of and free from men with other women, but a convent is still run by a man and the Catholic Church is still a deeply patriarchal system. The suppression of sexual desires is also ripe for the power of romance to overcome, for both dramatic and comedic effect, with or without men. Nunsploitation films offer taboo thrills, but also often critique and question the authority of the Catholic Church. However nuns are depicted in cinema they almost always come from the imagination of someone who is not a nun and could never know what it is really like to be one, which has allowed them to take on a mysterious and almost fantastical role that is also a part of the allure.
This week’s challenge is to watch a movie featuring a nun as a main character. Here’s a list from NunMovieFreak to help you out.
I came to The Innocents spoiler-free. I knew there would be nuns, and that's about it. I'm happy to report that it's a very good film, emotionally wrenching, based on fact, perhaps loosely. It takes place in Poland at the end of 1945. A Red Cross doctor is asked to come to a local convent, where she discovers a very pregnant nun during delivery. To say more is to spoil, but the movie is extremely intense at times, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. I knew none of the participants ... I'm new to director Anne Fontaine, and to the cast, with Lou de Laâge as the doctor and an excellent cast as the nuns (unfair to single anyone out, but Agata Buzek is a standout). The look of the film is expansive at times, claustrophobic at others (the cinematographer is Caroline Champetier).
Fontaine places women at the center of the story, which is obvious but you never know. Most of the men, with one exception, are brutes ... you're glad there aren't more of them. Fontaine is fair to the faith of the nuns ... the doctor is a non-believer, but everyone gets their perspective presented honestly. The Innocents is a film about faith, but it's also about the importance of sisterhood (no pun intended) and community. It's not an easy film to watch, but it's worth the effort.