The Nun (12A) Heart of Hawick

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No-one says, “Get thee to a champagne supper at The Ritz.” They say, “Get thee to a nunnery.” Sounds like a punishment.

Guillaume Nicloux’s film, based on Denis Diderot’s novel, extenuates the hypocrisy of the Catholic church and yet again, as in Philomena, it is the nuns who take the blame.

This is 18th-century France. The class system has strict rules of etiquette and membership. You can’t be too poor, for example, or admit to having a bastard child. No hanky in the pantry, madame. All above board, what?

Suzanne (Pauline Etienne) has that rare quality amongst young gals of Le Posh. She has attitude. When dumped in a nunnery by her awful family because they can’t afford to keep her in the manner born and, anyway, she was conceived the wrong side of the blanket (“Your birth is my only sin,” Mama confesses helpfully) although no-one is supposed to know, she doesn’t take it lying down. She takes it on her knees. And rebels. Loudly.

The film is beautifully made and perfectly played. Despite the Brits’ insistence on their superiority in the costume drama department, the French cannot be faulted when they put their minds to it. And Nicloux does.

Suzanne’s experience as a daughter of Christ, or whatever they call novice nuns, is truly shocking. It’s not only priests who indulge their sexual fantasies on choirboys, it seems. What happens when a Mother Superior gives in to her lesbian lusts? Turn away, O Lord.

The title of the film does not demand your attention. Rather, it implies sacrifice, humility and a life of religious devotion. Don’t be misled.

This has been torched by the fires of hell and scarred by the blades of passion.