Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lust for God II

Thérèse (1986) - Cavalier

Filmmaking that is as pure as its subject, Alain Cavalier tells the short life of Thérèse Martin, a young Carmelite nun who was canonized after her death and known for her writing. The film starts with Thérèse frantically trying to get into the convent because she can't wait to be wed (to Jesus) even though everyone says she's too young. She takes the matters all the way up to the pope.

Carefully framed and lighted, every frame in Thérèse resembles Rembrandt paintings. Catherine Mouchet's portrayal of clear eyed young girl who devotes herself to god with never wavering enthusiasm and warmth is totally convincing. Just as it becomes apparent that Thérèse is dying of tuberculosis, that her faith in afterlife is wavering, the film ends quietly, without any clear answers.

Cavalier doesn't seem to be interested in making Thérèse a religious propaganda or psychoanalyzing his subject. But he makes you wonder that if true devotion is only possible when you are young. Ignorance is bliss? An old nun tells Thérèse, "Don't worry, it's the first 30 years that's hard." Cavalier doesn't judge the little nun. He just presents her short existence matter of factly and there is a lot of beauty in it.