Therese (1986)

Alain Cavalier

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Date Added: 9 years ago.

Documentary Description

The life of little St. Therese of Lisieux, depicted in minimalist vignettes. Therese and her sisters are all nuns in a Carmelite convent. Her devotion to Jesus and her concept of "the little way" to God are shown clearly, using plain modern language. A sense of angelic simplicity comes across without fancy lights, choirs, or showy miracles. The after-death publication of her stubby-pencil autobiography "The Story of a Soul" captured the attention of the devout. She rapidly came to be known as `The Little Flower' or "St. Therese of Lisieux" and was canonized in 1927, becoming co-patroness of France with St. Joan of Arc, and a "doctor of the church". The film shows us this giant figure of the faith as she appeared within the hermitically sealed world of a Carmelite convent-a little girl with quietly extraordinary qualities. No music or heavenly light announces her holiness. The scenes are barren, the light is directional and shadowed, as in a Caravaggio painting. The film presents a series of vignettes, as though on as shallow stage. Within each one, she seems to seek to hide, not allowing herself to dramatize even her own illness and approaching death. But the reactions of other sisters reveal her. An elderly nun chooses her as confessor, surrendering to her the one private possession she has retained, against the rules, for 50 years. A confused and unhappy young sister responds to her clear-eyed and loving compassion. A crabby older sister showers her with flowers and asks her for the relic of a fingernail clipping, astonished that she is unable to withhold her homage. Most important, her Mother Superior, who alone knows her secret desire to become a great saint, requires that she write down the thoughts of her heart, knowing that they will be important. Believers will be moved, the merely curious may find themselves breathless.

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