33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Powerful and unsentimental,
This review is from: The Nun's Story [DVD]  (DVD)
Warner's beautifully restored DVD of The Nun's Story is a real surprise, avoiding the mawkish sentimentality that usually accompanied old Hollywood's approach to Catholicism with a sober, quiet unostentatious majesty and a mostly successful attempt to avoid cliché (there's no romance with Peter Finch's surgeon as you might expect). Fred Zinnemann, who now seems on the verge of being completely forgotten, constantly does things slightly differently - not just jump cutting from continent to continent, but avoiding convention in subtle ways. When Sister Luke departs for the Congo, not only is her departure handled in the bare minimum of shots but they're also not the ones you usually expect: no head on shots of the ship leaving for the open sea, but instead zooming out from a sideways view before cutting to the ship's wake. The visual economy never feels Spartan, but at the same time it fits the subject matter perfectly.
Audrey Hepburn too is something of a revelation. Too often an irritatingly kooky pixie clotheshorse, here she abandons many of her usual affectations that you either find charming or maddening to give the kind of sincere and grounded performance that was too rarely asked of her. It's a quietly powerful and surprisingly honest film that stands up to the test of time. Shame that for some reason Zinnemann gets Dean Jagger to voice one of the bit players as well, which briefly takes you out of the movie before a sudden act of unexpected violence shocks you back in, but there's little else to fault in it.