One of the landmarks of Polish cinema, this film is based on the documented story of the ‘possession’ of a group of nuns that led to the burning of a priest at the stake in Loudun, France in 1634.
Mother Joan of the Angels is a spare, visually rigorous, and profoundly disturbing exploration of faith, repression, fanaticism, and eros. Anyone who is a fan of classics of the strange will find much to savour in Mother Joan of the Angels. –Second Run
Jerzy Kawalerowicz (January 19, 1922 – December 27, 2007) was a Polish film director. He is of Armenian and Ukrainian jews descent.
Born in Gwoździec, Poland, Jerzy Kawalerowicz was noted for his powerful, detail-oriented imagery and the depth of ideas in his films. After working as an assistant director, he made his directorial debut with the 1951 film The Village Mill (Gromada). He was a leading figure in the Polish Film School, and his films Shadow (Cień, 1956) and Night Train (Pociąg, 1959) constitute some of that movement’s best work.
Other noted works by Kawalerowicz include Mother Joan of the Angels (Matka Joanna od aniolów, 1961) and a 1966 adaptation of Bolesław Prus’ historical novel, Pharaoh, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
In 1955 Kawalerowicz was appointed head of the prestigious KADR production unit. He held that position again… read more
There are images from this film that are really stunning: when the Sister enters the priest's room at the end to find him holding what he's holding (no spoilers here) and telling her to be quiet with his finger—! The self-flagellation scenes also recalled for me the "closet" scenes with Dimmesdale in *The Scarlet Letter*, sitting in the dark behind the door, trying to beat his love for Hester Prynne out of his body.
Despite of, or maybe because, of being agnostic, I have found that films like this produce an existential dread in me more powerful than many horror films because it has real issues in its core. File alongside Maurice Pialat's Under the Sun of Satan as an incredibly made masterpiece about the existential fear questions that exist in Christianity; now I only wished more of Kawalerowicz's work was available in the UK.