User Reviews (16)

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  • A sparse movie, but under-appreciated. John Malkovich's intellectual curiosity threaten both his marriage and his soul. The conclusion flows, but is not obvious when it happens. I suggest watching this twice in succession (it isn't very long) in order to pick up nuances in the dialogue that you might have missed during the first pass.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The casting of John Malkovich for the role of Dr. F.W. Murnau in "Shadows of a vampire" (2000) was probably not by change (although there is not a ghost of similarity between Malkovich and Murnau) - at least not for those people who have seen Malkovich in "The Convent", where he plays the director of the Nosferatu- and Faust-topics.

    I think the best approach to this rather hermetic movie of Manoel De Oliveira is by asking questions. Why does his wife who openly despises her husband's work accompany him into the monastery, where she has absolutely nothing to do, where a minute is as long as a day outside of the walls, where she has neither inside nor outside of the remote convent connections to other people? Why is a convent guarded by a couple who celebrates black messes? And does the chief-guardian not look like the Devil in medieval depictions and knows big parts of Faust I by heart, as if he would be actually Mephisto? Another interesting detail is that "Piedade", the immaculate, fragile, angel-like librarian gives the professor an edition of Faust, but of Faust II.

    The content of Faust II is the purification of Faust's soul. Therefore, all those people who see in "The Convent" the classical Faust-motives are wrong, because these are from Faust I. So, it does not astonish that the wonderful Portuguese landscape that De Oliveira shows us, corresponds practically literally with Goethe's description of the different scenes of Faust II (including the mysterious grove in which Piedad vanishes at the end and in which to loose herself she is wished by the professors jealous wife). I am afraid, all these people who have not read Faust II (and this is the majority both in Europe and elsewhere), is left alone in this movie.

    At the end of the film, before the credits, we read that the professor has abandoned his research to prove that Shakespeare was the Jewish Spaniard Jacques Perez, but, according to his impressions in the monastery, has dedicated his life now to the research of occultism. This is very interesting insofar as we have here now the former Faust II turned into the Faust at the beginning of Faust I, where he sits in his hollow-like apartment and studies Cabbalist signs, at the same time depressed that he cannot go into the magic letters and thus invokes Satan (as to be seen in F.W. Murnau's "Faust" (1926)). But in De Oliveira's movie we seen the already purified Faust II turning slowly into Faust I. This is by all means exciting.
  • This film is absolutely beautiful -- a picture of cinematic craft, and has a complexity that is rarely found in American films. Contrary to what others have said, this film has a fantastically developed plot. It is sad that the others who have reviewed this movie found it to be lacking.

    If you don't know Goethe's Faust, don't bother watching it. If you are so numbed by Hollywood that you can't stand to watch a movie without nudity, gore, blood, explosions, or sex, don't rent this movie. If you don't like to discuss nuance in films after watching them, don't watch this movie. If you hate French people, don't watch this movie. Rent something with The Rock in it instead.

    To the others who reviewed The Convent, I would say bad films do not win prizes at Cannes. This movie is brilliant, and is the epitome of what art film should be.
  • Well, first of all I've enjoyed this film immensely. I think it had all the right tone, the right actors, and the way the story is developed is done with great know-how. It's not boring in any way, but spectators need to be aware of the kind of movie they're going to watch.

    Deneuve, Malkovich, and the Portuguese actor Silveira and Cintra are all able to create an atmosphere of metaphysical mystery, in dealing to all the questions about all books, convents or even the devil.

    Thank god there are still movies that make you think and don«t give you all the answers so that you forget just after leaving the theater.

    Great scene the one where the "devil" runs through the forest... don't miss it!!!
  • Dr Renz23 November 1999
    Seldomly do we get films with such an interesting and involving plot as this one. An absolute joy to watch, with an excellent cast. There are not many films with such an interesting and fascinating plot as this one. Part of what makes the film such fascinating viewing is the settings and the stories that are associated with them. First rate cinema and obviously a moment of pure genius for the film maker.
  • Regarding others opinions, this movie is not to bee seen vainly, or as a block buster from another big company. The plot although can be a bit boring in some way, it's enormously compensating by the story it self, the picture work (the movie photography is brilliant), and of course by the talent of the actors, the Convent (in fact was really a convent, i know, i have been there) is based upon a book of, Augustina Bessa-Luis called, "As Terras do Risco" (the lands of risk, as a free translation) if you do not like reading a good book,or if you are not interested in some of the Europe's culture, just go head, eat American trash. If you're reading habits are updated, (you may find it easy to understand it if you are familiarly whith Dr. fust's History), you really shuld not miss this one, it's a brilliant movie whith a great history from the oldest of film directors in the world (belive it see the date of his 1st movie).This is an artwork
  • I consider myself a rather weird individual myself, I see strange foreign and art films, I read a lot on history and classics. Yet when I saw this film I oculdn't stop wondering what in the world was happening. I understand the metaphysical aspects of the film, even the Faust influence, but to me it lacked something central. The acting was great from Deneuve and Malkovich (Loved Shadow of a Vampire), but some other actors were a bit too fake, too overly dramatic. Yes, the cinematography is gorgeous, it makes me feel rather odd and at the same time its beauty is alarming. I think that it is actually an okay film that needs a better score and a more developed plot. A good but not phenomenal film. I have seen better movies concerning this idealogy, not many but a handful.
  • It didn't had to be this way but that's life. "O Convento" marks as my first Manoel de Oliveira film and it breaks my heart to say that it was a painful disappointment. I always reverenced the man for his longevity, his passion in making movies even while being 100-something years-old, to me that was a miracle and something that hardly ever happens. However, like any other great art, his movies are quite hard to find, it's not easily accessible unless you're going to film festivals, hunting them on stores or the net, never displayed on TV. Almost happened with me seeing a film of his in a public station TV network and that was "Viagem Ao Principio do Mundo", great movie and that was my first experience watching some of his work...but I didn't get the chance to see the final half hour. A commercial got in, then the network went off the air for the final duration of the movie and when they returned, it was regular programming and that's it. Never got the chance to see any of Mr. Oliveira films up until this one, the official first of his I've seen.

    The central idea of "O Convento" ("The Convent") seems brilliant when you hear it. It carries a mystery that you desperately want to get solved. It focus on an intellectual couple (played by the talented John Malkovich and the eternal Catherine Deneuve) who travel to a Portuguese island trying to find evidences about Shakespeare real origins, whom according to the professor, played by Malkovich, the author of "Macbeth" was in fact Spanish. The material he needs to access is located inside a convent guarded by a mysterious guide, a couple of caretakers and a young scholar. Haunting and almost fascinating until the main gets sidetracked by the guide, who knows plenty of historical facts and starts tempting Deneuve character; and the scholar who distracts Malkovich with many references of Goethe's Faust. That's when the movie get awfully pretentious by using reference after reference that doesn't add to anything and next thing you know those distractions are a work from the devil. So, Shakespeare has a pact with the devil and he needs to hide his Spanish origins from the general public? The couple's research wasn't the main reason to go to that strange island? It doesn't make any sense and it feels empty after a promising beginning and some effective thrills in the middle.

    What bothered me the most - besides the "story" - was the indecisiveness of Oliveira is sticking with one spoken or one written language through the whole film. I know, Mr. Oliveira is one of the most respected auteurs of the true cinema of the world, gathering actors and talents from all around, great, but having the characters shifting their words from Portuguese to English than French and German was a huge mess, specially if you watch some version that doesn't have any captions. I suffered with that from part to part, and despite being a Portuguese language native...I had plenty of trouble with getting the dialogues right. Fun (or sad) fact for those who don't know: Brazilian Portuguese is one thing; Portugal's Portuguese is another thing and honestly, the latter can only be understood with captions because it sounds too thick, too fast and except for the only female character, I couldn't get half of what they were saying. I missed important bits from the movie? I think so. But whatever the case, I'd understood the feeling of a scene, the rhythm of each moment if this was indeed the true cinema of the world formed to provide a relevant discussion about society, people, cultures and life. Hours were taken away from me and there was nothing so eloquent and well versed about anything.

    If the story doesn't help, the cast seems lost and the then 80-something director wasn't inspired, at least there's the frightening musical score that is purely out of this world, a true horror score that comes to threat the characters relative peace in that creepy old place. That kept me going, even after all the dialogues didn't make any more sense...because something spooky or revealing would have to come in the end. With a conventional storytelling, "O Convento" would have been a memorable piece of art. Instead, we have a weak film that seems to impress a dozen of folks who think they got something from it. I long to see that other movie of Mr. Oliveira because there was something remarkable there, things that can hardly be found in movies these days. 4/10
  • A seventeen year old could do this at home. Here's how:

    Take the most low-rent, brain-dead Hollywood teenage Satan-worshipper slasher flick you can imagine. Now: edit out the teenagers, edit out the violence, edit out the gore, edit out anything remotely suspenseful or titillating, and replace it all with quotes from Goethe and Nietzsche. Now,take it all very seriously and say you have an art film.

    I guess if you are eighty-five instead of seventeen, someone in Europe will give you a prize. Sort of a sympathy award for a crazy old uncle.

    Everything about this movie except for a few shots of the Iberian countryside is appallingly bad. The script has to be the laziest and most inept I have ever encountered outside of a community college classroom. Who knows what Malkovich and Deneuve were thinking if they actually read it before agreeing to make this film (assuming there ever was actually a script that could be read). Who knows what they thought when they saw the rushes. In fact, my theory about the ending is that all the actors (except the fisherman, I guess) simply abandoned the project in exasperation, walked off the set, and never came back. It's that ludicrous and incoherent.

    And the Shakespeare theory that is supposedly the inspiration and impetus behind this entire call it lazy, sophomoric, and stupid is to give it more substance and development than the movie ever bothered to.

    Funniest, most unintentionally hilarious moment? When Deneuve tells "Baltar" (I'm not making that name up) how magnetic and irresistible he is. Only a great actress could have done that without needing oxygen almost immediately.
  • This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. There is no plot, no action, no laughs, no "food for thought". Further, the characters are terribly dull and the acting just mediocre. From the very beginning, I never did understand what was going on. And after about 15 minutes, I didn't care. The ending was the silliest thing I've ever witnessed. Anyone who says this is a good movie must either be getting paid or else is trying to impress someone. No one, and I mean no one, who enjoys movies could find a single redeeming quality in this bomb.
  • I wanted to like this film so much. It was directed and played

    by many of my countrymen (Portuguese), but alas it is a turkey.

    I'm a big fan of Malkovich and Deneuve is ever so easy on the

    eyes, yet this movie is so poetic(?) that you don't really know

    what is going on. And the ending? I must have fallen asleep in

    one too many film crit classes, just like I did during this

  • clefzet28 June 2009
    Two stars for fairly competent cinematography. Good composition and good camera movement without glitzy focus-racking thru the forest.

    Malkovich and Deneuve are there only for their names. The real acting takes place with the Porteguese? actors. And they struggle with the pretentious dialog.

    The two worst offenses are committed by the director who explains the characters and their actions thru narration ( or awkward scenes with minor actors describing the main characters by using some vaguely occult terminology) rather than showing their characters and motivations thru their actions and their own dialog. It is a movie, after all, not an essay. Second offense is the music, which is overwhelming at times. Using Stravinsky with violent string passages to imply evil, danger, foreboding etc could work, but it didn't for this production. Just loud and annoying without any real matching action.

    It reminded me greatly of a university master's thesis film I worked on 37 years ago--(fortunately not mine). Lots of fantasy, lots of literary allusions, lots of mood, pointless scenery long shots, more than a few long takes that the director fell in love with and the editor was not inclined (or allowed) to abbreviate, and some really over-the-top acting moments (as when Baltar meets the prof's wife for the first time). Down, boy, down! I rented it because I am trying to catch up on some Deneuve films that I missed over the years, but I'm sorry I did. She must have really needed some money to have done this one.
  • Uh? I recommend watching this movie six times in succession if you really think you must honestly understand it. Once was too many times for me. First of all, there is no indication this took place in a convent, at best it is a monastery. Nuns do not have those libraries and there is little indication the feminine presence was accommodated in many other ways.

    The photography may be worthy, but it comes as a complete surprise to me that this movie was preceded by any kind of written guideline. If I had to guess, I would have thought that a director, producer or something and his entourage stumbled on a picturesque location while on a wine tasting tour and decided then and there to call in some uncommitted actors and cameramen and just wing it.

    The researcher is constantly reading and doing mysterious things on his computer. The deep philosophical conversations with no apparent purpose remind me of Junior HIgh school conversations I used to have with my more gifted friends. The ending? Who knows? Frankly, who cared by then? If I had been present, my urge would have been to follow somebody, anyone to their lair and make sure that any unused remaining film was destroyed.
  • Great premise: American academic (John Malkovich) and lovely French wife (Catherine Deneuve) travel to Portugal so he can research his theory that Shakespeare was really a Spanish Jew cast out in 1492 or on the run from the Inquisition. He winds up at a disused monastery (not a convent; there is no convent in the movie, despite the title) cared for by Satan worshipers, the viewer subtly becoming aware of this due to a big inverted pentagram hanging in the office of the "guardian" of the monastery, Baltar. Whether Malkovich and Deneuve are aware of this, or care, is unclear. Baltar gets the hots for Deneuve, while Malkovich is thrown together with the lovely young archivist (who seems to be a token non-Satan worshiper), but nothing comes of either pairing. Characters yak at each other, this tedium being broken by the greater tedium of extended silences, and then the yet greater tedium of extended silences with the screen virtually still. Despite the great setup, no gore, no nudity, all very tasteful eurotedium. Inconclusive conclusion. Ninety minutes wasted.
  • zjango2 September 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    This film was just too mysterious at times and, even though I found it super provocative and ultimately, worthwhile: the end had me laughing out loud -- and I'm sure that wasn't the intended effect. I'm curious to know what others think:

    Does the professor actually make a visit to Piedad's room? Or is it a dream, as she describes? How do you read the professor's reaction when she describes her vision? "I should stay far away from this lunatic." or "She and her delusions are sooo hot." -- are a couple of options.

    How to interpret Piedad's flight into the forest -- is she doomed to fall prey to desire, does this demonstrate the flaw in "goodness"?

    What other movies by this director would you recommend? Are there similarities among them?
  • This film sounded interesting but turned out to be a pretentious flop. The only good thing about it was the Portuguese scenery. It inspired a desire to visit that country.

    But the film itself was terrible. I usually like philosophical foreign films, but this one just seemed to be all style and no substance. Catherine Deneuve portrays her usual self: the intriguing ethereal beauty and Malkovich portrayed a low-key form of his usual self: quirky intellectual. But the plot just seemed pointless. The Professor did not seem to show any real interest in his alleged research. It did not seem clear why he came to this particular place to do the research. His wife did not seem interested in their relationship until she felt jealous. The mystery of the people living at the monastery was never explained. The music was disturbingly intrusive. The Faust story did not seem particularly relevant... I could go on and on about all the dissatisfying elements of this film. It was like a bad David Lynch movie...