Saturday, July 5, 2014

MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (1961) movie review

Mother Joan of the Angels (1961) d. Jerzy Kawalerowicz (Poland)

When a tormented, self-doubting priest (Mieczyslaw Voit) is sent to a small Polish country convent suspected of being under Satan’s sway, he encounters a myriad of demons both personal and external. Shot in exquisitely sharp black-and-white, this is not your standard exploitation programmer, but rather a deeply ambiguous examination of faith and sin, with Lucyna Winnicka’s supposedly possessed titular Mother Superior the key to salvation or damnation.

Astonishing camerawork and lighting by Jerzy Wójcik perfectly complement Adam Walacinski’s score, with stellar, at times expressionistic performances from everyone involved. Not an easy film to watch (or find, for that matter – thank you Gene Siskel Film Center and Martin Scorsese, for your “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” programming block last month), but a deeply rewarding one for patient viewers.

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