Mother Joan of the Angels

1961

Drama / Horror / Mystery

174
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 2

Synopsis


Downloaded times
May 31, 2021

Cast

720p.BLU
1010.1 MB
1280*720
Polish 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
110 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Prof-Hieronymos-Grost 9 / 10 / 10

Superb Polish tale of Exorcism

Father Jozef Suryn (Mieczyslaw Voit) is the latest in a long line of priests dispatched to an isolated 17th century convent to investigate the rumours of satanic obsession and possession affecting the nuns who live there. His particular task is to exorcise Mother Joan of the Angels,(Lucyna Winnicka) the mother superior of the convent who it would seem is possessed by numerous demons. Father Josef has been in training so to speak for many weeks, through prayer, abstinence, limited fasting and self flagellation and when he arrives at a nearby inn, he is shocked at the rumours he hears from the locals,who seem to take great pleasure in telling him of his difficult task, a task it would appear his that is going to be very difficult as the previous incumbent of his job had just recently been burnt at the stake. Mother Joan of the Angels was in fact based on real events and might be considered by some as one of the earliest examples of Nunsploitation, but the film is not exploitative in any way and never resorts to nudity or explicit sex, in fact it's a beautifully filmed, superbly acted horror drama that it would seem was very influential on William Friedkin's The Exorcist(1973), in fact if I hadn't previously known of its influence I would be comparing it to that film along with perhaps Bergman's Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)a film set in a similar time frame that also boasts many wonderful scenes of rusticity amongst the peasants and that explores their every fear, not least in the first 15 mins where Mother Joan of the Angels is, it must be said, slow to get going, but in a good way, as Kawalerowicz builds up the tension, there is much talk and speculation amongst the peasants as the demonic things that go in the convent, the viewer is left in high anticipation of the evil that lurks there. The stunning high contrast black & white photography by Jerzy Wójcik is reminiscent of many an expressionistic silent era film, in particular the first meeting between the two main characters is superb as the juxtaposition of Suryn's black hair, black beard and black robe against Mother Joan's pure white habit and headdress is very striking, mainly because the classic colours of good and evil are actually reversed, for Mother Joan is possessed by no less than eight demons which don't take long to show themselves to Suryn, his plight seems doomed to failure as he is a man unsure of his own ability, his wide eyes giving away his fear of the demons and his task ahead. On the whole the film is an very intelligent character study that also touches on some very interesting theological issues, issues that are explored when Suryn goes to a local Rabbi for help. The only negative I would say for the film concerns the DVD which had some really poor subtitles, other than that I can't recommend it highly enough.9/10

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 8 / 10 / 10

MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961) ***1/2

This was a "Special Jury Prize" winner at the Cannes Film Festival in a year where the top winner, curiously enough, was another 'nun' picture - Luis Bunuel's controversial VIRIDIANA! It deals with the famous 17th century incident of devil possession at Loudon - treated in several books and at least one more time on the screen, Ken Russell's notorious THE DEVILS (1971); for this reason, ever since I first watched the latter, MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS had been a sort of minor holy grail for me. Still, Kawalerowicz's approach couldn't be more different than Russell's hysterical campiness: while I admire the latter film, I seem to like it less with each viewing; this one, however, is a completely spellbinding character drama - not to mention a highly accomplished piece of film-making in its own right, with especially indelible visuals (somewhat reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman's medieval fables, namely THE SEVENTH SEAL [1957], THE MAGICIAN [1959] and THE VIRGIN SPRING [1960]): the starkness of its cinematography and sets (in contrast to the opulent exuberance of Russell's film) may also have influenced Andrei Tarkovsky's ANDREI RUBLEV (1966) - witness also the importance of the bells (as in the fantastic closing shot of them tolling silently, accompanied by the wailing nuns on the soundtrack). Interestingly, when the film starts the possession and exorcism attempts are already well under way (in fact, the events of the film take place immediately after the licentious priest who was later to be the central male character of THE DEVILS, played by Oliver Reed, has been burned at the stake as a sorcerer, denounced by the possessed nuns themselves). Given the ten-year gap between the two films (which saw a considerable loosening in censorship), the scenes here of rampaging nuns are nowhere near as explicit as in Russell's film - especially since it mainly revolves around the figure of the Mother Superior (played by the director's own wife): her numerous possession scenes are very effective, however, with the first manifestation of evil being particularly unsettling and brilliantly handled. Young Sister Margaret (ostensibly the only one not possessed) does emerge a major secondary character: seduced by a visiting squire (who, as with virtually all the other civilians, is depicted as lusty and takes a voyeuristic interest in the events at the convent), she gives up her vows for him but he eventually abandons her! This situation of 'impossible love' actually mirrors the more intense - yet repressed - central relationship between the the Mother Superior and the new priest (culminating in the scene where the Devil is literally passed from one body to the other); however, its aftermath differs strongly from the similar climactic incident in THE EXORCIST (1973): in a chilling sequence, to keep the demon from invading the woman again, here the priest goes on an irrational killing spree, finally telling Sister Margaret to inform the Mother Superior that he did it "out of love"! One of the most interesting sequences, too, is the one where the distraught Fr. Joseph seeks advise from a rabbi - an encounter which not only exposes the essential differences between the two faiths, but it's given an added touch of strangeness by having the same actor play both roles! The issues with the print which had kept me from ordering this earlier were exaggerated by the screen captures I saw on DVD Beaver; while certainly imperfect, the picture quality doesn't severely affect one's viewing appreciation, or dampen in any way Second Run's efforts to bring such an important masterwork to a wider audience. While not as revered as Wajda or some of the other Polish film-makers, from the two Kawalerowicz films I've watched (the other being the historical epic PHAROAH [1966]), his talent is undeniable; I'd love to catch up with his NIGHT TRAIN (1959), which the liner notes on the DVD described as the director's best work, and also the Italian-made (and reportedly disastrous) MADDALENA (1971). This was actually the first Second Run title I purchased: others I look forward to adding to my collection include THE RED AND THE WHITE (1967), THE CREMATOR (1968), THE EAR (1969), LOVE (1971) and the upcoming THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS (1966) and THE ROUND-UP (1966); I had intended to pick up KNIGHTS OF THE TEUTONIC ORDER (1960) and PASSENGER (1963) as well, but the DVD presentation of both is unfortunately compromised - the former has been censored by the BBFC for animal violence, while the latter's Aspect Ratio is incorrect.

Reviewed by tomgillespie2002 8 / 10 / 10

Complex and courageous

In what could be viewed as a sequel to Ken Russell's The Devils (1970), Jerzy Kawalerowicz's bleak but brilliant drama tells the infamous story of the so-called 'Loudon Possessions', in which a convent of nuns were said to have been possessed by a variety of demons, seducing men and indulging in sinful activities while the Church sent priests to exorcise them. It resulted in the death of French Catholic priest Urbain Grandier, who was burned at the stake after suggestions were made that he had succumbed to evil himself, forging a 'diabolical pact' that bound his soul to the Devil. It's an event that has caught the imagination of many artists, including the aforementioned Russell, as well as Aldous Huxley. but never has it been portrayed with such terrifying foreboding as in Mother Joan of the Angels. Father Suryn (Mieczyslaw Voit) is sent to a Polish convent in the seventeenth century, where talk amongst the sparse townsfolk are of the wicked acts committed by the nuns of the convent that looms over the town like a ghost. At the head of this apparent possession is Mother Joan (Lucyna Winnicka), who tells Suryn of the fate of the previous priest, whose charred remains still lie at the burning post. Suryn is so horrified by what he sees as the purest of evils that he promises to rid Joan of her affliction, even if it is at the expense of his own soul, becoming a martyr in the fight against Satan's influence. The picture is black and white and the cinematography is dark and empty, capturing the hopelessness of this small, insignificant and nameless town. It resembles the minimalistic work of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer, and shares many of the conflicted representations of religion that frequented the auteur's back catalogue. The film occasionally branches out into horror, with close-ups and shadows used to powerful effect as Satan's influence creeps into Suryn's soul, leading him to reach out in desperation to a rabbi in what is one of the film's most powerful scenes. It's also a twisted love story between Joan and Suryn, transcending mere desire into something deeper and unspoken. Complex and courageous, Kawalerowicz's film will most likely always be overshadowed by Russell's more provocative work, but this is one of the finest works to come out of 60's Poland. www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com

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