The Nun's Story



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 85% · 20 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 81% · 5K ratings
IMDb Rating 7.5/10 10 11771 11.8K


Top cast

Audrey Hepburn as Sister Luke
Peggy Ashcroft as Mother Mathilde
Beatrice Straight as Mother Christophe
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU 720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
1.36 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 31 min
Seeds 10
2.52 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 31 min
Seeds 22
1.36 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 31 min
Seeds 11
2.52 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 31 min
Seeds 21

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by gabrielcsl 9 / 10

A monk's perspective

I am a monk, an vowed member of the Order of St. Benedict (OSB). I'm also a great fan of Audrey Hepburn. I thought fans of this film (agruably Miss Hepburn's greatest performance) might enjoy how someone living a life under religious vows views the film's accuracy. I'd also like to provide a few interesting historical facts about the way the Nun's story came into existence.

Several contributors have commented on Hepburn's amazing performance, given the fact that she had to rely on pure acting skill, unaided by fashions and glamorous make up. Hepburn's son Sean Ferrer has said his mother considered her work in the Nun's Story to be the piece she was proudest of. It's easy to see why. There is nothing affected or stylized in her performance. It's honest, pure and simple.

Many of the customs of religious life depicted in the film were phased out, de-emphasized or abandoned after Vatican II. Orders that retain customs such as the culpa (the Chapter of Faults) have found ways to make the custom more of a simple acknowledgment rather than a public humiliation. The emphasis nowadays is on being honest about one's failings and less on a striving for a cookie cutter, robotic conforming to a supernatural ideal. There is more of an emphasis on acceptance and charity than on penance.

Dame Edith Evans, as the superior general of the order, Mother Emmanuel is both lofty and empathetic. Her few scenes in the film are some of the best. If anyone reading this has ever been a CEO or alone at the top of a chain of command, you will understand the loneliness of her position. The superior general of a religious order like the one depicted in the film has no equal in rank anywhere in the entire community. The local superiors (in the film Mothers Marcella, Christophe, Mathilde and Didyma) at least have counterparts of equal rank within the congregation. They answer to the superior general. The actresses who played these parts gave very accurate performances. Even the seemingly cold Mother Didyma at the hospital on the Holland border (from where Sister Luke leaves the convent) was accurate. I've known superiors and novice guardians (formerly called novice masters/mistresses) who were just as rigid.

Two of the most important parts in the film are Sister Margarita (mistress of postulants) and Sister William (Sister Luke's idol/role model). The scene where Sister Luke returns to the mother house and encounters Sister Margarita and her current flock of postulants is very poignant. The fleeting smile of recognition and affection on Sister Margarita's face speaks volumes to Sister Luke. Particular friendships, as they were then called, were forbidden, both as a guard against "unnatural affections" and as a way to preserve fraternal charity. The wonderful Rosalie Crutchley makes almost a cameo appearance as the mistress of novices (her last film was "Four Weddings and a Funeral" where she plays the wedding guest who asks Kristin Scott Thomas if she is a lesbian).

Dean Jagger, as Dr. van Der Mal, Sister Luke's father, is sympathetic and sad. Indeed, families "giving a daughter to God" in those days, rarely saw their daughters. Visits home were not permitted (unless you were ill in hospital or traveling to your next mission, you never slept outside of the convent). Your family could visit you four times a year. Letters were strictly censored and restricted.

Much is made of the relationship between Sister Luke and Dr. Fortunati in the Congo years. Fortunati's assessment of Sister Luke's worldliness is dead on. Peter Finch gave just the right amount of sarcasm, respect and adoration of Sister Luke in his performance.

The bottom line is while the film and novel both sensationalize and dramatize religious life (I've never heard of a superior suggesting someone fail an examination to show humility) the depiction of religious life in the early 1900's is pretty accurate. One entered the convent in order to learn to love God more. Mother Emmanual states at the end of the film that Sister Luke's love of medicine must take a back seat to her religious life. Sister Luke's failure is due to her inability get her arms around the vow of obedience.

In real life, Marie Louise Habets entered the convent two weeks after a brief interview with the superior general, Mother Xaverine. Today, months (if not a couple of years) of discernment would take place and the aspirant would be expected to pass a series of psychological tests.

Kathryn Hulme wrote a novel, not a biography, inspired by the life of a woman she met after WWII. Neither Hulme or Habets ever claimed the book was true from start to finish. One of the European publishers did that and thus created a myth that persists to this day.

The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, the order to which Habets once belonged, were scandalized and devastated by the book. The publisher's claims of accuracy and truth shocked them. An internal document, written by the assistant superior general (a former classmate of Habets -they entered on the same day and took vows on the same day) strongly and vigorously denounced the booked and accused the former nun of betrayal and the worst form of pride imaginable.

Hulme wrote a letter to Mother Xaverine explaining the "misunderstanding" and asking for her understanding. Hulme and Habets became life long companions.

The Nun's Story is a beautiful and exquisitely crafted film. The direction, acting, sets and musical score are among the best.

Reviewed by ccthemovieman-1 9 / 10

A Very High-Quality Film

I was amazed how a long, fairly slow film like this could capture and keep my attention all the way through.....but it did. This is really a quality film, as those who have seen it for years, will attest. It's so well done, in all phases, that when the two-and-a-half hours are up, you just marvel and what you've witnessed.

Anyone who has tried to live a perfect life, to please God and never offend Him with sins of any nature, knows it is impossible. It is a noble pursuit, but an exercise in futility that can lead to utter frustration. That is the dilemma we witness here in this film through the life of a well-meaning and sweet-as-can-be Belgian lady: "Gabrielle van der Mal" who is renamed "Sister Luke" after completing her training as a nun in the 1930s. Audrey Hepburn is superb as this woman, who has the greatest of spiritual intentions and a heart not only for God but to be a great nurse and follow in her father's footsteps, a famous physician in his country.

Can't she be both? The answer, of course, is "yes," but that's not the answer she receives periodically at the convent, or interprets because she's so tough on herself, and it causes great inner conflict.

Hepburn doesn't have tons of dialog in here and doesn't require it. The different looks on her face during this long story, especially when there is disappointment, are priceless. They are so subtle, but so telling. I am one who would vote for this film as Audrey's best performance, which is saying a lot.

Reviewed by secondtake 10 / 10

How to be your best, your very best...a lush, vivid, inward looking masterpiece

The Nun's Story (1959)

I knew I would enjoy at least Audrey Hepburn, and she's fabulous. But the movie came on as a Christmas Day feature and I worried that it would have too many religious overtones. Then as the credits rolled I saw it was directed by Fred Zinnemann. Zinnemann? I wondered what would draw him to this kind of story. My expectations tripled.

I was not disappointed. This is a measured but never slow movie. It's totally beautiful, it handles the sanctity of the convent with respect, never tipping into sappy adoration. Hepburn is what you want from her, lively and independent, and this is a natural conflict in a world of discipline and loss of independence. And it's also an evolving, changing story with a couple of major twists as it goes. By the end you see very much why Zinnemann wanted to do this and I can't tell you that. See for yourself.

The conflict between self and community, between having your own opinion about something and being forced to follow a larger set of rules that might not always be best, is the core of the film. When do you rebel? When do you submit? And if you have agreed beforehand to devote your life to submission, do circumstances allow an exception? A total change of heart?

If you think this sounds boring it is not. You might give Hepburn the biggest credit here--she's a natural and you are nothing but sympathetic--but the directing the cinematography are huge, as well. Behind the camera is Franz Planar, who did such trifles as "Holiday" and "Letter from an Unknown Woman" as well as two Audrey Hepburn movies "Roman Holiday" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's." If you have seen any of these (or all) you'll know how really perfectly they are filmed, with the camera in service to the story.

The story, by the say, in "The Nun's Story" is very much the point, even beyond the moral. When does a young woman leave a loving and comfortable home and join a convent, face a loss of self and freedom, and yet still feel useful to the world? Hepburn's character (who changes names, in part of the effort to leave the past behind), wants to go to Africa to serve the needy. How this is thwarted--or not--you'll see, but you really root for her. You see her brush against her principles in every way. And you see a larger principle arise--do the right thing. And she does. It's beautiful. It ought to make you cry. It will easily engage and move you.

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