Fred Zinnemann's epic 1959 drama The Nun's Story
is a splendid showcase for Audrey Hepburn, who stars as the young nun Sister Luke, who is deeply spiritual yet conflicted about whether or not she can conform to convent life. Though the film is a mesmerizing--and quite leisurely--two and a half hours, its plot is fairly simple--young Gabrielle (Hepburn) enters the convent pledging her life to God, learns the disciplines associated with the life, receives her dream assignment of going to the Congo as a missionary nurse, and once there, is forced to face whether she is meant for the rigorous life of poverty, chastity, and most difficult of all, obedience. The film does a marvelous job of portraying the challenges of cloistered life without being either off-putting or overly romantic. And Hepburn, sometimes with only her eyes, communicates all the drive, faith, and conflict of a young woman so torn.
If you find during the 160-minute running time of The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) that you don't like the plot, wait 10 minutes. It will surely change and there will be another story thread to entice you. The screenplay is literally all over the map: Siberia, where Archbishop Kiril Lakota, played splendidly by Anthony Quinn, has been exiled to a work camp in the oppressive Soviet regime; Moscow, where a genially scene-chewing Laurence Olivier plays a Soviet ruler with history with Lakota; China, where famine threatens to bring the world of the late '60s to the brink of World War III; and Rome, where Lakota travels after being freed (and where dissolute reporter David Janssen does his best to groove on the Swinging Sixties). Yet despite its flaws, the movie's central drama is riveting: the current Pope dies suddenly, and for a good bit of the film, viewers are treated to the Vatican's inner workings on the election of a new Pope. The events unfold at a leisurely pace, which allows you to drink in the spectacle and wonder of the ancient traditions. The Alex North Oscar-nominated score is lovely, and Quinn's performance is the somber-with-a-humble-twinkle glue that holds the film together. Anyone interested in the traditions and rituals of the Vatican will find plenty to savor.
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima tells the story--through an admittedly Hollywood prism--of one of the most beloved Catholic legends of the 20th century. Three young shepherd children in the remote Portuguese mountain town Fatima reported seeing a vision in 1917 of "a beautiful lady" who spoke to them of strife, war and peace and the love of Jesus. Soon the word spread, and throngs, teetering on mobs, gathered near the site for a glimpse of what they believed to be Mary, mother of Jesus. The children remained steadfast in their account, despite threats from the church and the government, and the final appearance of the lady, on Oct. 13, 1917, was accompanied by strange apparitions in the sky that have yet to be explained by science. The movie is well-made and -acted, especially by a radiant Susan Whitney, who plays the oldest child, Lúcia Abóbora dos Santos. The screenplay takes some liberties with the facts: the lovable jokester-sidekick character of Hugo is fictitious, and one wonders if perhaps a few of Our Lady's cautions about the multitude of evil things happening in 1917 Russia might have been heard through a Cold War filter. But the 1952 film is moving and is a reminder that big studios once routinely, and profitably, released religious-themed movies, to audiences who surely would appreciate some of the same today. --A.T. Hurley
The Films of Faith Collection features three tales of spiritual discovery which celebrate lives of purpose and inspiration, The Nun's Story, The Shoes of the Fisherman and The Miracle of Our Lady Fatima. Audrey Hepburn, Peter Finch, Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud are among the top stars of the films; bonus features include the vintage featurette The Shoes of the Fisherman and theatrical trailers. The Nun's Story (1959) is an unforgettable revelation of the seldom-seen world behind convent walls. Audrey Hepburn portrays Sister Luke, a nun whose life journey leads her to a much desired position as a surgical nurse in a Belgian Congo missionary hospital. After she returns to her native Belgium, World War II breaks out and she finds her commitment seriously tested -- torn between the pull of the Resistance and the church's neutrality. Directed by four-time Academy Award winner Fred Zinnemann, The Nun's Story earned eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
From Morris L. West's bestseller, The Shoes of the Fisherman is both an urgent tale of geopolitical intrigue and a fascinating look at Vatican procedure. Anthony Quinn plays a newly-freed Russian political prisoner thrust into the spotlight as Pope Kiril Lakota. Laurence Olivier, Oskar Werner, John Gielgud, David Janssen and Leo McKern enrich a production which was nominated for two Academy Awards and won a Golden Globe for Alex North's score.
The Miracle of Our Lady Fatima (1952) thoughtfully recreates the 1917 actual events that brought hope and new religious fervor to a war-ravaged world. Three peasant youths in Fatima, Portugal see a vision: a woman in a cloud of light offering words of devotion and prophecy. The children face torture by the anticlerical government but are soon embraced by the faithful masses drawn by the promise of a miracle. Director John Brahm skillfully balances simplicity and spectacle, all powerfully supported by Max Steiner's Oscar-nominated score.