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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Minimalist French Writer/Director Robert Bresson created Les Anges Du Peche following a year in Nazi captivity during World War II. Knowing this bit of information helps us possibly understand why he made this film. Two women meet at a convent, one becomes a novice and the other is serving out her remaining sentence for a crime she did not commit. The novice Anne-Marie, played by Renee Faure, is inexplicably drawn to the convicted thief Therese, played by Jany Holt. Therese unexpectedly becomes a catalyst for Anne-Marie's growing rebellion as a novice, eventually resulting in a change in both women. The performances by both actresses are excellent, and Bresson fashions an incredibly interesting philosophical story about various themes both religious and secular in nature.

    Surely, one of Bresson's explored themes is captivity here, as he had just experienced the brutality of Nazi wardens during the war. In the film, Bresson examines various elements of captivity: captivity of body, captivity of soul, one's moral superiority holding one's self captive, one's anger and frustration holding one's self mentally captive, and being captivated by others who influence our actions. Before the fadeout, forgiveness, humility, pride, redemption, and sacrifice are given the once over as well. Bresson seems to indicate we can not separate our spirituality from our humanity. The inner and outer worlds exist side by side and one influences the other and vice versa. Hence, the irony of the film's title.

    Bresson garnered a reputation for being a minimalist director; in that, he only focuses on what's necessary to tell his story. There is no unnecessary subplot or extraneous footage shot. He frames scenes focusing on lone characters in the center or in two shots of two actresses without fancy cutting or editing. Bresson utilizes sound with Therese's screams, the grinding wheels of the meal cart, and the escape alarm to emphasize her captivity in the convent, and his depiction of her trying to escape where there is no room for it, huddled in the corner of the frame before being led back to her cell, mirrors our own existential dilemma in life. The entire film uses the convent as its setting (with a few very brief exceptions), demonstrating even the director is held captive by his subject matter. The film builds a little slowly and then grows on the viewer as it develops further. It's a very interesting philosophical exercise. *** of 4 stars.
  • An early work by Bresson, I was lucky enough to see a restored version of the film at Cannes Film Festival this year. It is a fine film, though unfortunately is not so fresh in memory. It is a different sort of film from his later work, lacking both its intense bleakness and its incredible originality. It is nonetheless a very powerful and pure work, which explore the Christian themes of self-sacrifice and redemption with a kind of intense, candid, clear-sighted conviction that one would expect from Bresson. Its story about two women who choose to join a convent, and the different reasons for doing so (one being essentially self-less and the other a selfish who is "on the run")is far more compelling than it might sound. As usual there is a brilliant precision in its film language and narrative, and it conveys its social ambiance and characters (the various nuns mostly) using Bresson's typically stripped-down, modest style which mangages to be engagingly dramatic. For an atheist I also found myself completely engaged by the film's concerns because of the honest, complex and sparing way in which Bresson explored them. He was certainly a very different sort of Christian to most of the ones who come knocking at my door...
  • Contrary to what you might expect from a 1943 movie about nuns in a convent, Les Anges du Peche is fast, intense and gripping. The writing (by a Dominican priest, Raymond Bruckberger) is awe-inspiring; nearly every line of dialogue is a cluster of moral and emotional insights. Explored with great wisdom are themes of conformity and nonconformity, selfishness and selflessness, sin and redemption, love, jealousy and bitter resentment, pride and shame.

    I am not sure if I have ever seen as forceful a feature debut as Bresson's. Don't overlook it - it is arguably better than his more well-regarded works.
  • More people should see this beautiful film! It is easily available on (with subtitles), free for streaming on youtube or google video, or for download on the usual sites. It looks great and the print is fine for 1943. The grim corridors of the prison and the foggy streets outside the prison, makes for a suitably noirish contrast to the shining white walls and robes in the convent. Although the professional actors and the suspenseful plot make this an atypical Bresson film, the careful camera framing and the discrete panning produces typically sparse and detailed interiors. The plot may be melodramatic and music a bit intruding at times, but almost every scene is a joy to behold. There are a lot of interesting little touches that show in great detail the daily life and the more mundane side of convent life, clothing regulations, mores etc.

    I find that I watch this film more for the aesthetic quality of the individual scenes than for any statement the film as a whole might have. There are also many oddities: For example when Therese knocks upon the convent door after shooting her betrayer, sister Anne Marie is chanting a text from what, one might assume, is a book of prayers. The title, however, reads: "Leo Tolstoj : Krig og fred", which makes it a Norwegian or Danish version of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Strange? But the most impressive and memorable sight in the film for me is the early scene when the submissive sisters lay face down with arms outstretched cross-like on the cold floor. It is almost frightening in its austere beauty, and also very strange for anyone without convent practice. It is the strangeness that does it. Like every Bresson film, I guess.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    To a Dominican convent with a special mission of accepting ex-prisoners comes Anne-Marie (Renée Faure), strong-willed, devout daughter of a wealthy family. She is convinced that she has a mission to help recover the souls of the despairing, and she works enthusiastically to be allowed to visit the prison. When she does, she encounters a woman, Thérèse (Jany Holt), anything but a model prisoner—she screams and tries to escape. Thérèse confides in Anne-Marie that she has served two years in prison for some one else's crime, and hints that she will seek revenge. An intervention at the time of her release fails; Thérèse leaves the prison, buys a pistol, and kills the man who betrayed her.

    Not long afterwards she arrives at the convent door. She is accepted by the Mother Superior, and Anne-Marie takes her under her wing. But she does so too much, treating Thérèse like a pet or a prodigy. Thérèse is mostly silent while Anne-Marie gushes. Here's where the tricky part arises: from the start Anne Marie is anything but humble. She is driven by a vain, arrogant sense of the importance of her mission, and this leads her into negligence of her assigned duties, failure to submit to authority, and assuming she is exceptional. Her insubordination grows worse, and Thérèse spitefully tells her that one of the chief nuns likes her and the other does not. The latter has a cat, and Anne-Marie takes exception to it. Soon it is difficult to tell whether she is mad or singularly blessed, but when she refuses to do an assigned penance, she is expelled from the convent.

    Anne-Marie does not return home, but hides in a barn by day and prays in the convent cemetery by night, until she collapses on the founder's grave in a rainstorm, almost dying of hunger and exposure. The sisters bring her inside to die. Near the end, she holds onto Thérèse, saying that she must die because she has failed to do the task she undertook, that is, to convince Thérèse of the joy of god's love. And Anne-Marie confides in Thérèse that she had no regrets because she loves her. At this point Thérèse becomes angry, telling Anne-Marie that she is just turning to friendship because the strategy of superiority has failed. Her heart is not just hurt, but dead, she says, and cries out as she leaves, why can't I be alone? You already are, Anne-Marie says softly, and that's why your pain is so great. Thérèse returns to her bedside.

    As the nuns gather to witness Anne-Marie's death, and the police arrive downstairs, the mother superior offers her the opportunity to take her vows. When she cannot speak, Thérèse, holding on to her, speaks them for her. Slowly she rises, smiling, kisses her feet, and walks calmly through the crowd of kneeling nuns. The movie ends with her advancing, wrists crossed, and the click of handcuffs.

    What has happened here? For one thing, Anne-Marie has done everything wrong, at least by the rules of the Dominican order, for she has placed her own will above everything else, and has been guilty of great spiritual pride. But she has also been humbled by her failure to become a true nun, by her expulsion from the convent, and by the failure of her attempt to give Thérèse the gift of peace. Until nearly the end of the story, Thérèse has been skeptical and bitter. When Anne-Marie says that one thing could make her live—the change she hopes for in Thérèse—then at last she seems to understand that Anne-Marie does not want to take over her life. Anne-Marie, she understands at last. really longs for her happiness. Her love for Thérèse survives failure and humiliation, and it is this love, with the egotism burned out, that succeeds where her hyperactive will to do good has failed. Though Thérèse returns to prison, she is calm and resigned, her heart and soul at rest. Within the confines of the cloister this subtle spiritual drama unfolds relentlessly, and the two principle actors always fascinating to watch—Faure is smiling and radiant, Holt wild-eyed in prison and steely calm in the convent. The other nuns are all fine, and they furnish a context of rigor and forgiveness. The movement and setting and photography and the use of light and shadow are all austere and beautiful.
  • 1st full-length feature by the self-described Christian-atheist, it was made in occupied France after Bresson had done a year in a prison camp.

    There's nothing ostentatious i his style. It's sparse, no flashy camera-acrobatics or editing tricks. I always feel the best directors are those whose work you hardly notice.

    The story is set in a convent, Sisters of Bethany, it's purpose is to help women in prison rehabilitate. In it we find Anne-Marie, a somewhat proud & middle-class woman who comes to logger-heads w/Mother Superior & this leads to problems. Along the way she connects w/one of the more recalcitrant prisoners & recognizes her pain & need to be reached out to. Upon release the prisoner returns to join the convent under suspicious circumstances.

    What we have is a contrast in characters who come to the convent for different reasons & an exploration into spiritual matters. Well worth watching...
  • hof-423 October 2011
    Script and dialogues by the director, Raymond Bruckberger and the playwright Jean Giradoux. Accurate and moving description of a Dominican convent (Bruckberger was a Dominican monk). The story centers on the difficulty of setting precise limits between Christian charity and pride. Unfortunately, the script veers needlessly (and distractingly) into overly dramatic territory midway through the movie. This affects negatively the quality of the acting as well. Music is a little too emphatic at times.

    On the positive side, well paced direction and excellent cinematography. This is the first feature film by Bresson and there are some inklings of the minimalist style that would mark his later work.
  • "Les anges du peche" (Angels of sin) is situated in a monastry of the Dominicanesses from Bethany. This order gives women who have been in jail shelter and a second chance. So not al the nuns in this monastry are angels.

    Sister Anne Marie however, who has not been in jail but who has joined entirely out of free will, comes close (to being an angel). Anne Marie sees it as her mission to guide one of the most difficult novices, sister Theresa. Sister Theresa has been in jail, but persists that see was innocent. "The innocent cannot forgive" is her motto.

    The relationship between the angelic Anne Marie and the frustrated Theresa is the engine of the story. While watching the film I found out that I dit not always symphatize with the angelic one.

    Just as Stanley Kubrick, Robert Bresson began his filmcareer as a conventional director, to develop a unique style of his own only after a few films. His debut "Les anges du peche" (1943) together with "Les dames du Bois de Boulogne" (1945) are generally considered as his two conventional movies. This maybe true for "Les anges du peche" as far as the form of the film is considered. "Les anges du peche" has a plot and the characters are played by professional actors. But the theme of the film (guilt, penitence and redemption) is as Bressonian as a theme could be. This theme fully comes into its own during the marvelous ending.
  • dbdumonteil1 May 2007
    This first Bresson effort has not worn well.The director himself did not like it,and it is sure easy to see why.A non -French audience will not notice it,but the actresses here are professional,some of them were stars of the era.The great Sylvie,Renée Faure,Jany Holt were famous in France when they starred in "les Anges du Péché" .Some were to become ,like Silvia Montfort,whose whining acting is in direct contrast to everything RB would do afterward .

    Can today's audience relate to those characters?I have my doubts.This is an excellent documentary : a nun's life is no laughing party (for that matter,see also Zinnemann's "a nun's story" and Alain Cavalier's "Thérese").But the nun from the bourgeoisie who tries to redeem a criminal 's soul will not convince anybody,unless he absolutely loves the director.

    It's little more than a Sulpician melodrama.
  • Robert Bresson's first feature film, ANGELS OF SIN examines the power of religious piety and sets the story within a Dominican convent where female ex-cons are rehabilitated, and makes great play of a professional cast.

    Our angelic protagonist is Sister Anne-Marie (Faure), hailed from a well-to-do family, but resolves to devote herself to the noble work of reforming the sinner, and her prime object is Thérèse (Holt), a prisoner claims that she is innocent, and right upon her release, she takes her revenge to the man who should be accountable for her imprisonment and then joins the convent to dodge the punishment, much to Anne-Marie's delight (who doesn't twig her true purpose), who takes Thérèse under her wing.

    But Anne-Marie's beneficent intention and zealous alacrity is brushed aside by Thérèse's penitence-free lying-low stopgap, who in turn, cunningly stokes discords between a naive and vivacious Anne-Marie and the more stolid and jealousy-inflamed ones whose telling opinions of the former are at once self-revealing and acrimonious, after a squabble about a black cat, its fallout has Anne-Marie ousted from the convent, but it takes her sacrificial final act (a bit sickly though) to finalize her lofty mission, redemption is achieved with haunting clarity in its solemn coda.

    A rigid exercise in his craft of shaping up a spiritual parable, Bresson's self-disciplined style is in its inchoate state, stunning chiaroscuro and beatific soft focus compositions notwithstanding, the story has been retouched with a sentimental glamor mostly owing to Renée Faure's virtuous performance in the center, an effect soon Bresson would ditch roundly after THE LADIES OF THE BOIS DE BOULOGNE (1945), whereas a fiercely snarky Jany Holt manifests more stamina and inscrutability which is more likely consonant with Bresson's aesthetics.

    The internal power play and peer pressure inside a convent is only scuffed without patent virulence, which saves us from another nun-demonizing diatribe and grants Bresson a more sagacious eye on religion and humanity, although ANGELS OF SIN can be hardly extolled as a groundbreaking jumping-off point from a future auteur.