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A Feature film by Alain Cavalier

Produced by Alliance Film Communication (AFC)

Release in France : 24/09/1986

  • Contents

Actors (11)

Production and distribution (4)

Executive Producer :

Alliance Film Communication (AFC)

Film exports/foreign sales :

TF1 International

Co-production :

Films A2

French distribution :


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Box office: Timeline

International releases (11)

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Like two of her older sisters before her, Thérèse Martin is determined to become a Carmelite nun even though she is officially too young to enter the order. Thérèse's stubborn piety wins through, and her love affair with Jesus transfigures her short life. Alain Cavalier's account of Thérèse's joy in her vocation is based on her spiritual autobiography, "The Story of a Soul".

Source : Wikipedia


Critical responses

The film was first shown on British television in 1987 on a nun-themed film evening, with Black Narcissus, and was introduced by Marina Warner. 'I think Thérèse is a rare and beautiful film... no film has ever before transmitted so involvingly the bliss the mystics describe of communion with God, the intense pleasure a saint like Thérèse felt at her intimacy with Jesus, the deprivation she experienced when He seemed to be absent and the comfort and affection of young women sequestered together... Cavalier's visual style, the film's restrained spectrum, its dove greys, bistres, waxy whites, recall the quiet images Gwen John painted in Normandy of nuns reading, praying... Cavalier scans the properties of convent life... He has learned from Robert Bresson how to linger on an image, how to give symbolic intensity to humdrum objects, by isolating them in the frame, and gentle repetition.'

In "The New Yorker", the critic Pauline Kael wrote that - " Watching Thérèse is like looking at a book of photographs of respectfully staged tableaux and not being allowed to flip the pages at your own speed. You have to sit there while Cavalier turns them for you, evenly, monotonously, allowing their full morbid beauty to sink in. You're trapped inside his glass bubble."

The academic Mary Bryant called the film, "by far the most effective and challenging rendering of the Thérèse-event in the decade leading up to Thérèse's centenary year in 1997." "Alain Cavalier was careful at pre-production stage to immerse himself not only in data, but also in visual and atmospheric detail. His film is a beautifully lit evocation of the stylised poverty of Carmel, which is like that which we now associate with Shaker furniture and interiors. Although Cavalier did visit the Lisieux Carmel, and spoke to the sisters there, the film was not shot on location there, and makes no attempt to reproduce the recognisable architecture of that monastery. Instead it focuses upon faces in spaces, intensity within enclosure, as in the late plays of Samuel Beckett. There are no exterior shots at all in the film; instead , the presence of an extra-monastic world is conveyed obliquely, by the background cooing of a wood pigeon, or by the green, pulsating body of a tiny crouching frog, cupped in the hand of an infirmarian, and brought in to give pleasure to the dying Thérèse."

"The actress Catherine Mouchet, who plays Thérèse (and who bears a startling physical similarity to her), incarnates the simplicity of Thérèse without ever spilling over into the ethereal or the fey. In one scene, she and another sister stand side by side, gutting fish...the other sister reveals, while they work, the internal split she experiences within religious life: mon corps est ici,mais mon esprit est ailleurs - (My body is here, but my spirit is elsewhere.) For Thérèse, the opposite is true: she is always intensely present in every scene, never dreaming or oblivious."

Source : Wikipedia


Full credits (12)

Executive Producer :

Maurice Bernart

Director of Photography :

Philippe Rousselot

Sound Assistant :

Bruno Tarrière

Production Manager :

Daniel Deschamps

Editor :

Isabelle Dedieu

Costume designer :

Yvette Bonnay

Screenwriters :

Alain Cavalier, Camille de Casabianca

Sound Recordist :

Alain Lachassagne

Assistant Operator :

Louis Becker

Press Attaché (film) :

Claude Davy

Production Designer :

Bernard Evein

Sound Mixer :

Dominique Dalmasso

Technical details

Feature film

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Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

100% French

Production year :


French release :


Runtime :

1 h 34 min

Current status :


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Posters (1)


Festival Selections (2)

Cesar Awards - French film industry awards - 1987

Cesar Awards - French film industry awards (France, 1987)

Selection (10)

Best Sound : Dominique Dalmasso, Alain Lachassagne

Best Production Design : Bernard Evein

Best Costume Design : Yvette Bonnay

Best Cinematography : Philippe Rousselot

Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted) : Alain Cavalier, Camille de Casabianca

Best Editing : Isabelle Dedieu

Best Director : Alain Cavalier

Most Promising Actress : Catherine Mouchet

Best Film

Cannes International Film Festival - 1986

Cannes International Film Festival (France, 1986)


Official Competition

Awards (3)

Cesar Awards - French film industry awards - 1987

Cesar Awards - French film industry awards (France, 1987)

Awards (5)

César award for best editing : Isabelle Dedieu

César award for best cinematography : Philippe Rousselot

César Award for best writing : Alain Cavalier, Camille de Casabianca

Award for most promising actress : Catherine Mouchet

César award for best film

French Syndicate of Cinema Critics - 1986

French Syndicate of Cinema Critics (1986)


French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Price