The Nun (2013 Remake) Review

AKA: La Religieuse, La Religieuse (2013)
Genre: Drama

Year Released: 2013

Distributor: Film Movement

Origin: France/Belgium/Germany

Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: R
Related Films/Series: The Nun (1966)
For Fans Of: The Piano Teacher, Stations of the Cross, Agnes of God

Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:

-In addition to the notes, the screenplay itself is based on a book by Denis Diderot which was published in 1796 which was after the author had died.

-Abbess Saint Eutrope is played by Isabelle Huppert who is known to American audiences in The Bedroom Window and I Heart Huckabees. Also, she’s in The Piano Teacher which is interesting given that Eutrope and Erika have severely repressed romantic desires.


I had a giant queue of foreign films to watch, and I added this one to the list. I didn’t even know that it was a remake until after I watched it and did research for this film, so don’t expect me to have an opinion on the original.

Now onto the review proper.

The Nun starts in 1765 France. There’s a marquis who’s sick, but doing his best to hold onto dear life. There’s a letter that transitions into a flashback from two years ago where the chunk of the story takes place. The main character is Suzanne Simonin. Her sisters are getting married left and right while she’s been single at this time. Despite having no fondness for religious life, she is sent to a convent and complete her time in this cloistered atmosphere. She does meet a kind abbess who cares for her, but she ends up dying during Suzanne’s stay. Suzanne has issues fully committing to being a nun when she goes along to the rituals. The replacement Mother Superior becomes a tyrant who charges Suzanne with the crime of writing a letter where she’s shunned, not given food, and at one point is forced to strip by two other nuns. Suzanne even finds out that she’s an illegitimate daughter along with trying to live as a nun.

 Yeah, a so-called godly place becomes hell for her real quick.

Pauline Etienne as Suzanne was a great choice. While I’ve never seen her filmography, I thought she did a great job as playing this reluctant nun who has existence issues. Her facial expressions during the ritual scenes were priceless and she legitimately looked uncomfortable without saying a word or being histrionic about it. The scene where she openly refuses to take the vows of chastity and poverty was well-acted not that her other scenes aren’t like that. The other standout performance is Isabelle Huppert as Eutrope. Her character development was intriguing even though it gets very uncomfortable once you find out her motivations and as to why she treats Suzanne well in her convent. Some of her earlier scenes where Suzanne is performing music for the whole convent had a lot of foreshadowing like Eutrope was holding back so many emotions while still being cheerful around the other sisters.

The motifs of how people review religion (in this case, the Catholic church) was a fascinating observation. Suzanne comes across as agnostic or at the very least deistic without being so open about it with her worldview and her acting. I did appreciate how there were both good and bad people who were involved in the churches and convents. A movie like this could easily come across a heavy-handed attempt to critique religion. While the concept of religion should be watched under a critical eye especially all the charlatans, pharisees, and other bad people using it to justify atrocities, it was a nice change of pace unlike films such as The Invention of Lying, for example. The characters who do use religion as carte blanche to commit sins were believable albeit very harsh like the torture scenes that Suzanne goes through at the hands of the succeeding Mother Superior.

If this wasn’t distributed by Film Movement who specialize in independent cinema from all over the world, I would have been mistaken it for being a mainstream movie from a visual standpoint. The production was spot-on with the lighting, set design, and scenery. Some of the outdoor scenes in the French countryside made me feel like I was there. The scene where Suzanne talks about being tormented and being locked up felt really claustrophobic and I could almost smell the dank air of her “prison”.

While there were some admirable things presented in this remake, I did have some qualms. I know some more religious folk will take a lot of umbrage with the portrayal of some of the nuns and clergy, which is understandable. I personally wasn’t offended by most of it. Also, the film does drag at several points where the plotting just crawls. I can handle-slower paced movies and shows, but there were times where my patience was tried. Some plotting was contrived which was strange since it had a realistic setting. The one thing that dampened my enjoyment was the big reveal of Suzanne’s father. This is by no means an attack on anyone’s intelligence, but I thought it was painfully obvious who it would be by watching it. Maybe this was me being more savvy than I thought when it comes to certain plots, but I connected the dots and it wasn’t hard for me to do so.

The Nun was a quiet movie that had some admirable points, but boredom got in the way. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals were well-executed, and the acting was top-notch, but there was some absurdity and meandering with the overall plot. Tedium can be a huge hindrance for me in cinema, so I couldn’t give this an extravagant grade. Personally, I preferred the movie Stations of the Cross which I felt was a better critique on religion even though it took place in the 21st century unlike The Nun. It’s still a decent movie, but it’s just not a great one.


Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you’re an Isabelle Huppert fan
Subtract 3-4 points if you consider yourself to be very religious
(especially if you’re Catholic)

Pros:

-Gorgeous cinematography
-Very good acting

-Understated, yet effective score



Cons:

-Dragged out scenes
-Some scenes went over the top
-Predictable plot reveal involving Suzanne’s dad

Final Score: 6/10 Points

Content Warning: This movie is not for kids. Sure, there’s not anything in the way of gore or language, but the themes will be too much for younger viewers. There are torture scenes that will make you squirm. The big one being Suzanne forced to be stripped naked by two nuns as punishment and you do see her entire body when this happens. There’s also strong homosexual overtones with one character pursuing another nun and desperately wanting said nun to touch and embrace her which would account for being sexual harassment and even abuse.

-Curtis Monroe

Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

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