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The Nun's Story (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 18 July 1959 (USA)
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3:12 | Trailer
After leaving a wealthy Belgian family to become a nun, Sister Luke struggles with her devotion to her vows during crisis, disappointment, and World War II.

Director:

Fred Zinnemann

Writers:

Robert Anderson (screenplay), Kathryn Hulme (book) (as Kathryn C. Hulme)
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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Audrey Hepburn ... Sister Luke (Gabrielle van der Mal)
Peter Finch ... Dr. Fortunati
Edith Evans ... Rev. Mother Emmanuel (Belgium) (as Dame Edith Evans)
Peggy Ashcroft ... Mother Mathilde (Africa) (as Dame Peggy Ashcroft)
Dean Jagger ... Dr. Van Der Mal
Mildred Dunnock ... Sister Margharita (Mistress of Postulants)
Beatrice Straight ... Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)
Patricia Collinge ... Sister William (convent teacher)
Rosalie Crutchley ... Sister Eleanor
Ruth White ... Mother Marcella (School of Medicine)
Barbara O'Neil ... Mother Didyma (War-time Hospital)
Margaret Phillips ... Sister Pauline (medical student)
Patricia Bosworth Patricia Bosworth ... Simone (postulant who changed her mind)
Colleen Dewhurst ... Archangel Gabriel (Sanatorium)
Stephen Murray ... Chaplain (Father Andre)
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Storyline

In 1930, in Belgium, Gabrielle van der Mal is the stubborn daughter of the prominent surgeon Dr. Hubert van der Mal that decides to leave her the upper-class family to enter to a convent, expecting to work as nun in Congo with tropical diseases. She says good-bye to her sisters Louise and Marie; to her brother Pierre; and to her beloved father, and subjects herself to the stringent rules of the retrograde institution, including interior silent and excessive humbleness and humiliation. After a long period working in a mental institution, Gaby is finally assigned to go to Congo, where she works with the Atheist and cynical, but brilliant, Dr. Fortunati. Sister Luke proves to be very efficient nurse and assistant, and Dr. Fortunati miraculous heals her tuberculosis. Years later, she is ordered to return to Belgium and when her motherland is invaded by the Germans, she learns that her beloved father was murdered by the enemy while he was helping wounded members of the resistance. Sister ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Her Faith Remained Strong and True in the Face of Africa's Terrors! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 July 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Historia de una monja See more »

Filming Locations:

Belgium See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A real priest was cast as Father Andre the chaplain but his acting left much to be desired so Stephen Murray was cast at short notice. See more »

Goofs

After Sister Luke is attacked by the Archangel after opening her cell door to give her a cup of water, the other nun consoles her by walking in and saying "I would have done the same thing" - without even knowing yet what Sister Luke had done. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: "He that shall lose his life for me shall find it. If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and come follow me." Each sister shall understand that on entering the convent, she has made the sacrifice of her life to God.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Voi Che Sapete
from "The Marriage of Figaro"
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as W. A. Mozart)
Played by Gabi and her father on the piano, and recurring throughout the film's score.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Exceptional
26 November 2000 | by Jon KolenchakSee all my reviews

When Audrey Hepburn, as Sister Luke returns from the Belgian Congo, she has a brief meeting with her father, whom she has not seen in years. So much time has gone by that they engage mostly in small talk. He when he finally asks her how she is "inside" (gesturing to her heart), she responds with, "Fine, how are you, Father"?. He replies, "Still very lonesome for you". That scene alone is enough to break your heart.

The Nun's Story is filled with such scenes. Fred Zinnemann directed this film so perfectly that you don't even realize that for the first 40 minutes or so, you are being instructed on how nuns learn to "act like nuns".

There are lots of famous actors in those habits, too. Beatrice Straight (Network), Barbara O'Neill (Gone with the Wind), as well as a glorious performance by Dame Edith Evans as Mother Emmanuel.

The amount of emotion that Audrey Hepburn can portray with just her eyes, a turn of her head, or a subtle facial expression is simply incredible. Without giving away any important plot element, there is one scene where she is in her cell trying to cope with a letter that she received. It is one of the most painful scenes in the entire film.

Sister Luke's struggles are balanced by scenes that are so beautiful in their simplicity, that to attempt description here would be impossible.

And the film score by Franz Waxman is one of the best things he has ever written - most of the melodic motifs are based on ancient Gregorian chant, and the orchestration is superb. When we reach a climactic scene involving Colleen Dewhurst, he switches from his Romanticized writing style to a 20th century 12-tone technique, and the shock of the dissonant music fits the action of the scene perfectly.

Sister Luke's struggle is universal. Anyone who has looked deep into their own soul for whatever reason can identify with her.

When Sister Luke is asked by her father to describe her doctor in the Congo, she smiles and says, "Exceptional". The same can be said for this beautiful film.


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