Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Önce İtalyanlar, sonra da Almanlar tarafından işgal edilen bir kasabada yaşayan bir dul (eski kocası Yahudi) ile kasabanın Katolik rahibi arasındaki ilişki. Beni sarmadı, meraklısına...
A story of a spiritual struggle of a young widow set in Germany-occupied France featuring irresistibly lovely and brisk Emmanuelle Riva and young Jean-Paul Belmondo. It's like this spiritual story towers over the bustling worldly affairs of the time, although of course one can't name WW2 a "worldly affair". But salvation of one's soul, mind is always a much more difficult task than providing security for one's physical body.
I'm not Christian and what I know about Christianity I know more from media than anything else, so I say this as a sort of disclaimer for my review and interpretation.
This was an interesting movie for a lot of reasons - it gives you a glimpse into that WWII french occupation life, it presents Christianity in a more philosophical than emotional way that's not typically represented on film, and apparently its ideas about Catholicism in general are a bit more radical than you might expect from the 1960s. However, this movie is split between two possible interpretations: a loss of power and then the ra-ra-Catholocism message it seems to turn into by the end.
Barny's husband is dead, her towns being occupied, her daughter is living in the country, and she has nobody except for Leon; her conversion to Catholicism seems to be more about her desire for stability than anything else really. Even that bizarre crush she has on that woman in her office seems to be more about a desire for power; Sabine is in control, she's beautiful, she's confident, especially considering it magically dissipates once Sabine starts to despair. Then once Leon decides to peace out she's totally crushed because he became the staple of her life... which was annoying! I wish the movie had given at least 5 more minutes on what happens to her - its almost like they got so wrapped up in their Catholic promotion they forgot by the end of the film that the main character isn't actually Leon.
As for Leon himself, he's a shitty 26 year old. I got bored by the fact that everything he said was witty and wise and how everybody fawned over him for saying it. He isn't the perfect priest they all praise him to be, he does flirt with the girls and he's also cold and childish half the time. He leads people on most likely because he's also lonely and wants company but he's so married to his profession (quite literally) he ends up having to cockblock himself and move. They could have explored his inner life more too but again they got too wrapped up in the philosophical side - which again, like, WAS interesting but to the emotional detriment of its characters in my opinion.
So watching this as both an atheist and a woman I was mostly bummed out by the character of Barny (and most of the women in general in this film tbh) being too flat. They do touch upon some interesting sexual themes for her that are fairly bold for the early 60s but they never fully explore them. There's some interesting arguments for Catholicism in here but the pro-communist and atheist arguments are weak at best. That alone brings it down from "great" to "good" in my book. Other than that, if you're catholic you'd probably get more out of it. In that way it kind of reminded me of Silence... musings on what makes a true catholic, what is catholicism, etc.
Even if "Léon Morin, Priest" isn't Jean-Pierre Melville's best work, it is still a rather compelling work from a great French film director.
<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>
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.
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.
Heartbreaking. Emmanuel Riva's performance is unusually raw for that time in cinematic history.
Great great great film!!!!
Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Leon Morin, Priest' is set in a small french village during the German occupation, where we follow the young widow and single mother, Barny (Emmanuelle Riva). She's also a communist, but one day she enters a church randomly, and decides to confess, just for the heck of it. But there's a new priest in town, the young and handsome Leon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), and she starts confronting him. But he's intrigued and decides to meat her at his apartment to discuss religion and even give her some books. And that's how Barny gets more curious about the christian fate, and starts to visit the priest regularly.
This is a great film about religion, and how people's curiosity finds its way towards it in an innocent and non conforming way. I just love the performances. Belmondo as the dedicated but open minded priest. And of course the talented Emmanuelle Riva as the young and confused widow, who is sexually confused when it comes to one of her female co-workers and worst of all, the priest himself, but she knows that it will cost it their friendship. A great film with great dialogue and with real human emotions and two extraordinary performances by two of France's greatest actors. Thumbs up.
As If a Baptism Were All It Took to Save Them
I am unable to find exact statistics on this and can't remember quite where I read about it in the first place, but the percentage of Jewish children killed in France during the Holocaust is truly disheartening. A substantially larger percentage of children than adults, if I remember my research correctly. Actually, the breakdown of French Jews killed is only twenty-six percent, compared with ninety percent in several other countries. Okay, that's still about ninety thousand people, compared to exactly fifty-two in Denmark, but it could have been much worse. Elsewhere, it was. And I don't know how much those statistics account for half-Jewish children such as Our Heroine's child here. What I do know is that the parents of those children did everything they could think of to protect them, and merely getting them baptized was not enough. Though I do understand why you might initially have believed it was, in that time and place.
Our Heroine is Barny (Emmanuelle Riva, eighty-six yesterday and still not an Oscar winner), the Gentile widow of a Jew. She is also an atheist and a Communist. She makes arrangement with two friends to get their children baptized. For reasons I am not entirely clear on, she then decides to make life difficult for a random priest, settling on Father Léon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo). She is trying to shock him, trying to make him deny the church or at least speak against it. Slowly, he actually manages to convert her himself. Life in Occupied France goes on around them, and her concerns are a bit beyond the averages worries of a single mother. Whether she actually falls in love with Sabine (Nicole Morel) or not, I cannot say, but certainly there were no men her age other than Father Morin and the Germans to fall for in the village. Which, of course, inevitably means that she will end up falling for Father Morin as well.
The decision was made to focus not on what life was like in Occupied France in general but on the life of Barny in particular. Even there, it's more about her relationship with Father Morin than how she handles the Occupation. It's about a woman and a man and God, basically, and everything else is just sort of on the side. Even her daughter, of course named France (first Patricia and then Marielle Gozzi), only serves to exist as a faint reflection of Barny's own actions and desires. And, of course, Barny expects things to fall in place a certain way. Obviously, she knows not everything will go her way; how could it? She's living through the Occupation, and her half-Jewish daughter must go into hiding in order to live through it. Though it isn't very clever hiding, so perhaps Barny is luckier than she knows. She also doesn't seem committed to much of anything; she lets Father Morin talk her back into Catholicism awfully easily, and I don't think it's just because she's got the hots for him.
Of course, so do half the other women of the town. I don't know how much of this is tied to the aforementioned fact that all the young men of the town are dead or gone, but there it is anyway. Father Morin also seems to be a bit of a chameleon; while he is devoted to God above all, he also seems to give each woman exactly what she needs from him, at least until what Barny needs is something that violates his vows. He is personable without being entirely personal. It also kind of bothers me that he seems to speak to various of the women about the others; it's one thing if he listens, but he has told Sabine things that Barny said and felt, and Barny has come to him as a spiritual advisor. It may not fall under the seal of the confessional, but that doesn't mean he should be spreading it around that way. The women all seem to at first assume that Father Morin is seeing them alone and then decide that another woman of their acquaintance would benefit from his guidance.
Even if he were allowed by the Church to marry, I'm not sure Father Morin would have done so. I'm sure half the women who went to him thought he would have married them, but to devote himself in that way to any one of them probably would have meant not being able to minister to the others in the way he felt he had to. He loved Barny, I think, and loved her daughter. Certainly he was better for them than Sabine--who I'm pretty sure was the woman who kept talking about how the only people hurt by the Nazis were Jews and Communists, as if Barny weren't both a friend of hers and a Communist--and of course the widow of a Jew. Sabine and the other women were no real support for Barny. Barny probably wasn't any support for anyone herself. Someone needed to be there for all those women, and that was the purpose Father Morin really seemed to serve. After all, he was one of three priests in that church, and there were other churches in the town. No wonder he thought there were too many of them.
Very, very compelling tale.