Warsaw, December 1945: the Second World War is finally over and Mathilde is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic one night, begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy.
A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters’ fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the new anti-Catholic Communist government, and facing an unprecedented crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their belief and traditions clash with harsh realities.
Complex moral themes evolve against a backdrop of muted colours and subtle performances in this latest film by French director Anne Fontaine, who spent time in a Benedictine convent to experience the unique life of the community. She handles the story with great sensitivity, avoiding the temptation to allow any one of the conflicting moral views to dominate. The quiet beauty of the cinematography and the Latin songs sung by the nuns create a vivid contrast with the brutal reality of war which has turned their world upside down.
Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza
Running time: 115 minutes
From France Today magazine