Mother Joan of the Angels

(Matka Joanna od Aniołów, 1961)
   Jerzy Kawalerowicz's film, the recipient of a Silver Palm at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. The film, an adaptation of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's short story set in eighteenth-century eastern Poland, is loosely based on a well-known account about possessed nuns at a seventeenth-century monastery in Loudun, France. This classic tale about demonic possession presents two main characters: Mother Joan (Lucyna Winnicka), the supposedly possessed mother superior, and Father Suryn (Mieczysław Voit), a young ascetic and devout exorcist who is sent to the convent after one of his predecessors was burned at the stake for his involvement with Mother Joan. When Father Suryn exhausts the traditional methods (prescribed rituals, prayers, and self-flagellation), he consciously commits a horrid crime (the killing of two stable boys) to liberate Mother Joan and the convent's sisters from demons and place the demons under his care. Jerzy Wojcik's photography, with clear contrast between black and white elements within the frame, portrays a barren, inhospitable landscape with only four buildings. The bright convent on the hill and the dark inn at its bottom play a crucial role in the film's concept. The convent is inhabited by the white figures of the nuns, whirling during the devil's activities, their robes flowing in a carefully choreographed manner. The whiteness of the nuns' robes is juxtaposed with the dark robes of the exorcists and the black or shadowy background.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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