Nuns- you know ‘em, you’re scared to death of ‘em. They also have their own film genre. Granted, nunspoloitation isn’t something they give awards to. That said, we’re not going to be discussing those types of movies. (I mean, Ken Russell’s’ ‘The Devils,’ which features a nun orgy and is also really high on my ‘must see’ list isn’t even available on DVD.) No, this list will be a little more mainstream movies, but they still feature sex, abuse and of course, chicks in habits.
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Presburger, this film, along with 1948’s ‘The Red Shoes,’ are considered their masterpieces. The movie stars Debra Kerr, as a nun who is among a group of sisters sent to set up a convent and school in the Himalayas.
Perhaps most amazingly, not a foot of this movie was shot in India. In fact, it was entirely shot in England, with sets and matte paintings creating the illusion that we are looking at India.
With rich colors, and a taught story rife with sexual tension and thrills, ‘Black Narcissus,’ is a wonderful nun movie. (Personally, I feel it is better than Audrey Hepburn’s ‘The Nun’s Story’ in depicting the issues facing the modern day sister.)
Lilies of the Field
Ok, so maybe ‘Lilies of the Field,’ falls more under ‘Three Cool Sidney Poitier movies,’ and not, ‘Three Cool Nun movies,’ but, give me a break- any chance to discuss Sidney Poitier is a good chance to discuss Sidney Poitier. Poitier plays Homer Smith, an itinerant handy-man, who meets up with a group of German nuns in Arizona when he stops at their farm for water. As Smith makes small repairs for the nuns, they become convinced that he was sent by God to build them a chapel for the people of their community.
‘Lilies of the Field,’ is simple, honest, 1950s filmmaking. It won’t amaze you with its flash and style, but its substance is what resonates.
Sidebar: Other nun movies worth considering. ‘The Sound of Music.’ ‘Nuns on the Run.’ (And as silly as ‘Nuns on the Run’ is, at least it stars Eric Idle. Sadly, the same cannot be said for ‘Sister Act.’ Even though that one does co-star Harvey Kitel, it’s still not worth checking out.)
The Magdalene Sisters
This is one of the scariest, most disturbing movies I have ever seen. Based on the true stories of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, the film is set in one of the Magdalene asylums. The asylums were designed to ‘reform’ girls who suffered from a wide range of ‘problems.’ Problems such as having children out of wedlock, suffering from mental or developmental problems, or girls suffering from abuse- all were brought into the laundries, and forced into hard labor as a way to redeem themselves. The asylums were run by the Magdalene nuns, who were cruel, abusive and, in some cases, sadistic.
The movie, directed by actor Peter Mullan, is based on the true stories of three women. It is amazing what these girls went through. Trapped and separated from their families, it is almost without question that some of the girls’ problems increased once inside the asylum. While this whole practice seems barbaric and out-of-date, the movie notes that the last laundry in Ireland closed in 1996. This film is highly recommended, although, maybe not a Friday night rental. -Sam