Léon Morin, Prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest) (The Forgiven Sinner)

1961

Léon Morin, Prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest) (The Forgiven Sinner)

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96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 621
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Movie Info

A richly contemplative saga of grief, this is the tale of a young war widow who is helped to work through her doubts and bitterness by a young priest.

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Critic Reviews for Léon Morin, Prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest) (The Forgiven Sinner)

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Léon Morin, Prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest) (The Forgiven Sinner)

  • Aug 16, 2014
    <i>Note: More than a review, this is a detailed analysis of the ideas that both protagonists have, and the excellent way in which Melville constructed a compelling romantic drama out of it, utilizing the WWII setting in an almost perfect form.</i> <b>MORIN</b> Morin is a priest. He is an academic Catholic man, loyal to his vows. His beliefs are contradictory, often carrying some weight of intellectualism over the true doctrine of God's Word, but often criticizing the purely empirical obtention of knowledge, and therefore denying epistemological philosophy as the most proper doctrine to find God in this earthly life. He believes in an Almighty God, but one undecipherable God. His rare mental mixture of the Bible with philosophical speculations of God's existence and personality results in a contradictory amalgamation of ideas about man's perception of the metaphysical, but still holds the idea of faith being capable of sustaining even the contradictoriness of our perception, so he uses this idea to justify himself. More than a true Christian, he is a Catholic priest of limited understanding masqueraded with academic studies trying to fill the holes of what eludes his rationale. However, he is focused and persistent, willing to convert the hearts of the world to God. He probably witnesses this turmoil of WWII as an opportunity for the world to reconsider its history and turn its face to God once again. He believes in chastity and the purity of the soul, and practices it with true conviction. He believes in a perfect Heaven having several mansions for all different human viewpoints to arrive to a metaphysical consensus, where all humans will finally reach not only God's grace, but also His unlimited scope of things. God, he says, is a "moral certainty", which is one of the most abstract things I have ever heard describing God. <b>BARNY</b> She is an atheist. She is also a communist, and a widow with her daughter as the only true family companion. In a personal world with a lack of love, she slowly starts to feel attraction for her boss Sabine Levy, whom she perceives as a woman of angelic beauty and purity, like those women of the Scriptures. Ironically, however, she doesn't believe in the Scriptures. Well, I actually believe she does, but lives in frustration for not being able to understand and believe in an intangible God. Moreover, the story takes place during the German occupation of WWII, so she also decides to baptize her daughter as a means of protection. One event leads to another, until she meets the priest, Léon Morin, in what is for her a subconscious attempt of confession, even if she consciously denies it. <b>BARNY AND MORIN</b> Barny then decides to start discussing with Morin themes about religion, the human condition and the existence of God. He speaks of an elitist God who loves everybody but keeps certain things in secret for the concept of faith to acquire a meaning. If faith in the intangible wasn't required, then "everybody would believe, and we would already be in Heaven". However, he believes in a God whose omniscient acts represent love for all mankind, but he also places the collective conscience of a Christianized world on top of the power of God over our lives, even if he is the author of all creation. Given this gigantic wave of obvious contradictoriness, she becomes even more confused, but curious to understand as well. Well, of course, I understand her. Morin was driving me mad with how his ideas were all over the place and cannot connect, but that's his character. Belmondo's performance is truly one of a kind, and one that you wouldn't expect from his more famous aggressive gangster facet. That's when I understood that Melville's intention was to form a romantic drama, like stated in the opening note, rather than focusing on the religious discussions as the main topic. No, this is a drama about two souls of completely different perspectives of the world, even of God. Why does this "romantic drama" categorization matter? Because Barny listens to Morin, reads his books, tries to believe in God and is converted to Catholicism not because of wanting to meet God, but for two reasons: a) She was cornered. With no marital love, no family support, confusion because of her attraction to her female boss, atheism, and her increasing feelings towards Morin, she felt cornered. Maybe she took this path as the easiest way to make a sense out of her life. Concurrently, the sociopolitical turmoil of WWII present in the country mirrors her internal disorder and void, so she is also forced to live secluded in her country out of fear of being shot instead of running away. b) As mentioned, he had intense feelings for Morin. -- This is Melville at his most dramatically straightforward and emotionally mature. It is no surprise that the film was deprived from 22 minutes of running time for its American release given the treatment of controversial subjects, even if the subjects are as human as they come, and are never treated with a sign of exploitation or disrespect. That talks a lot about the way censors perceive things and make decisions of censorship, an idea that I do not believe in. The film never drags and is always captivating and even interesting to look at, while we witness two completely different viewpoints about metaphysical subjects to collide, while the tormented feelings of an alone woman intervene in her perception of the world, and in her discussions with the man she now loves. This is really a great film. 94/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jun 09, 2011
    Another wonderfully directed and filmed piece from Melville featuring top-rate performances from Belmondo and Riva. A wonderfully eerie and depraved setting set the tone of the morally challenging film and are beautifully captured by Melville and lived in by the actors. It's a very thought provoking film with many symbolic acts throughout that you may not even notice without referring to the commentary that is part of the Supplements. A great piece from wartime France that showcases the French Resistance and the way of life for the civilians. Highly Recommended, especially if you are a Melville fan!
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 19, 2009
    [font=Century Gothic]In "Leon Morin, Priest," Barny(Emmanuelle Riva) has a crush on Sabine(Nicole Mirel), the office manager at the correspondence school where she works. Barny does not take the war seriously when the Italian army occupies the town but things get serious when the Nazis show up. So, she and some of her friends work together to get their children of Communists and Jews baptized. Otherwise, Barny has only ridicule for the Catholic Church and she decides to play a joke on one of the priests. But Leon Morin(Jean-Paul Belmondo) is not who she expects and speaks to her on her level. He is so winning in fact that Barny agrees to further instruction at the presbytery.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]As rambling and episodic as "Leon Morin, Priest" is, it also contains a series of intelligent and witty dialogues on the nature of religion. In short, can there really be an atheist during an occupation? Morin is never totally just concerned with the spiritual, taking an interest in the temporal lives of his parishioners, even going so far as to suggest Barny get married.(Are they really talking about what I think they are in the following conversation?) This is at a time when the most common sexual activity is the casual contact everybody has with each other due to most of the young men being away from the village for one reason or another. However, I do think there is more to Barny's infatuation with Sabine than simply that.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 02, 2008
    "Léon Morin, Prêtre" stands out in Jean Pierre Melville's body of work. Better known for his American style noir films such as "Bob le flambeur" and "Le doulos", "Léon Morin, Prêtre" comes between these but is not a crime drama, yet a thought provoking and intelligent film. Set in an occupied French town during WW2, with convincing period detail, Emanuelle Riva plays the widowed mother, who stumbles upon Jean Paul Belmondo's Catholic priest and over the course of the film starts to question herself. Melville here wears his Bresson influence on his sleeve and proves he can successfully stray from the crime drama. The fact that he chose two established stars also helped with the public point of view. The action, if you can call it that, is very much dialogue based, but the conversations between Riva's and Belmondo's characters are never boring, and between these talks we have quick glimpses of how people continued through everyday life under the Nazis. I'll just also mention the interesting cinematography with interesting shots and Henri Decaë's great photography.
    Emily B Super Reviewer

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