As it won Jennifer Jones the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role, The Song of Bernadette had sufficient recognition to warrant me viewing it.
The Song of Bernadette is not precisely my kind of film as it is a very religious project, while personally I identify as being an atheist. But still, I found that I was able to enjoy the film because of the passion in the story and the general spirit of it all.
Although The Song of Bernadette is a somewhat dated film and runs for a rather long time, the spirit of it is undeniable. Created with the best intentions, it tells the story of the life of Bernadette Soubirous as it happened and captures a lot of the depth of the woman and just what her relevance to the world was. Admittedly, her story can only go so far and the fact that the film runs for the extensive running time of 156 makes it a spectacle which may be a little too much of too little, but as a whole it is still a good film. The Song of Bernadette stands out because while certain aspects of it have faltered under the battle of age, the majority of its aspects remain positive. The effect of the story is not as likely to be felt too much these days, but it is interesting to look at as a historical piece for how it depicts the kind of religious society that was present in 1858. It makes for an interesting look back, and the script maintains the realistic language to take a trip back.
To further add to the realistic nature of the film, it is visually grand. Thanks to spot on art direction and great costumes, The Song of Bernadette both easily captures the visual nature of 1858 society and reveals director Henry King's eye for great imagery. Everything is captured with nice cinematography as well, and it all plays out against the backdrop of a well composed musical score which puts a lot of power into reinforcing the atmospheric nature of the film. The Song of Bernadette is both visually spectacular and has a nice soul to it thanks to the musical score, so it manages to get the legitimate atmosphere in many areas.
But like I said, The Song of Bernadette stands out because of the spirit in the story. Although the subject matter of the film is harsh and very dramatic as well as rather thin when you get down to it, it is kept within the reaches of a light hearted atmosphere. There is a lot of spirit in the story, an atmosphere which is compelling and nearly angelic as the tale unfolds, and it develops well, gaining strength from the performances of the cast and the musical score of the film. The Song of Bernadette is a good film because it has a memorable atmosphere which stays consistently heartfelt instead of falling into melodramatic territory or tedious sentimentality. The atmosphere in The Song of Bernadette is great, and is allows everything to unfold with passion as the story progresses through its complex territory and to the point of conclusion. The pace of the film is nice because it is consistently gentle without ever sinking down to a point of being especially slow or long and rather keeps itself consistent over the course of its running time. The Song of Bernadette is a classical styled film and has the visual style of one, and so its pacing and running time remain same to the norms of films that were commonly released at the time. The general feel of the film transcends the usual limitations of the genre, however, and so The Song of Bernadette proves to be a memorable film.
And thanks to a powerful cast lined up, the material is executed with firm strength,
Vincent Price dominates the screen in The Song of Bernadette when he is on it. In one of the best performances of his career, Vincent Price turns in a firmly dramatic performance where he supplies a certain sense of wisdom to the film. He delivers his lines with a firm understanding of the subject matter and without hesitation which shows him giving a powerful effort, and it is a performance so powerful that I would deem it worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Vincent Price is simply stellar in The Song of Bernadette because he sinks into the character so well and uses his powerful voice to grab the attention of viewers in a fashion similar to the way Orson Welles did. His performance was exceptional, and his lack of an Academy Award nomination is a prime example of one of the worst snubs in history.
Jennifer Jones is also excellent. The entire time in The Song of Bernadette she maintains a true level of passion both to the film and the character which she channels into the character's passion for her beliefs. She has a lot of determination within her but she keeps it as part of the subtext of her character as she maintains a certain level of stoicism the entire time. She has the quiet but reserved nature of a Nun inside her which makes her an easy religious figure for the story to revolve around, and the way that Jennifer Jones puts her heart and soul into the performance makes it a very compelling and sympathetic effort. Jennifer Jones is terrific in The Song of Bernadette, and her restrained line delivery is truly great.
The supporting performances from Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper and Anne Revere are also powerful.
So although The Song of Bernadette is a rather old film which has relevance more important in its original release than it does today and it is long and somewhat thin, the passionate spirit in the film consistently keeps it entertaining, the style of the film is terrific and the performances from the cast and particularly Jennifer Jones and Vincent Price manage to make it compelling to watch and memorable as well.