Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Thérèse (1986), and What Makes a Good Saint Movie?

By Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 27, 2021 | In Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

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James and Thomas, with the help of filmmaker and critic Nathan Douglas, tackle Alain Cavalier’s 1986 film Thérèse, an unconventional portrait of the beloved French saint known as the Little Flower. It gives them a chance to ask the question: What makes for a great saint movie?

One of the great strengths of the film is actress Catherine Mouchet’s amazing physical resemblance to Thérèse, but also the way in which she seems to inhabit her from the inside, shining forth a visible beatitude unique in cinematic portrayals of saints. She does this without ever falling into the “plaster saint” sentimentality one might fear.

But it’s also a highly unconventional movie, seemingly set on eliminating extraneous elements that would normally be attractive in a film. in order to get to something more essential. This is manifested in the austerity of the sets, to the point where we do not actually ever see a room in the strict sense, much less an outdoor setting, and more mysteriously in the camera’s singular focus on certain physical objects.

Though the lead actress seems to get at her character from the inside, the attitude of the film itself is somewhat more inscrutable and distanced, particularly in its ambiguous portrayal of asceticism.

The discussion concludes with a killer monologue by Nathan Douglas on how one might get the most honest and complete results in making a film about a saint, as well as the observation that Eucharistic devotion is almost completely absent from the majority of even the best saint movies that have yet been made.

Thérèse is not available for streaming anywhere, and cannot be bought on disc at a reasonable price. The easiest way to see the film is to contact [email protected] and ask for help.

Links

Nathan’s newsletter, The Vocation of Cinema https://vocationofcinema.substack.com/p/welcome-to-the-vocation-of-cinema-10b

Follow this link to join the Online Great Books VIP waiting list and get 25% off your first 3 months: https://hj424.isrefer.com/go/ogbmemberships/tmirus/

Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com/

Criteria is hosted by Thomas V. Mirus and James T. Majewski.

Thomas is a pianist living in New York City. He is Director of Podcasts for CatholicCulture.org and hosts the Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

James is the Director of Customer Relations for CatholicCulture.org. A stage, film, and voice actor based in New York City, he is the host and narrator for Catholic Culture Audiobooks. See full bio.

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