Released in 2013, the film “La Religieuse” by Guillaume Nicloux with Pauline Étienne, Isabelle Huppert and Louise Bourgoin is the second adaptation of Diderot’s eponymous novel. At the time of the cinema release, the director had explained his inspiration behind the end of the film, which moves away from the version imagined by Jacques Rivette, released in 1967.
The Nun: Nicloux adapts Diderot
Released in French theaters in March 2013, the film The nun directed by Guillaume Nicloux is the second film adaptation of the eponymous novel by Denis Diderot published in 1796. Indeed, Jacques Rivette had already adapted this work in 1967 with Anna Karina in the main role. For the 2013 version, Guillaume Nicloux set his sights on Belgian actress Pauline Étienne to play the main character.
Eighteenth century. Suzanne, 16, is forced by her family to return to orders, while she aspires to live in “the world”. At the convent, she was confronted with the arbitrariness of the ecclesiastical hierarchy: superior mothers alternately benevolent, cruel or a little too loving… The passion and strength that drove her enabled her to resist the barbarism of the convent, pursuing her only goal: to fight by all means to regain his freedom.
Alongside Pauline Étienne, we can also find Isabelle Huppert and Louise Bourgoin.
A free ending
Diderot’s work was not completed by the author. So there is no official ending. In the first film adaptation, Jacques Rivette had decided to kill Suzanne, who committed suicide by jumping out of a window at the end of the film..
Unlike the latter, Guillaume Nicloux did not choose such a dramatic path for his character, who shows himself more rebellious than in the main work. It was explained thus:
The more I knew Suzanne, the less I saw her die. The version of La Religieuse that I propose tends towards a possible future. I wanted to see her free from her maternal tutelage, and therefore free to experience her revolt. I have always seen Suzanne as a rebel who struggles to win her freedom even if access passes temporarily through renunciation.
Regarding fidelity to Diderot’s novel, Guillaume Nicloux explained that he wanted to keep a feelingrather than following the work to the letter, to also put his own vision on the subject:
When I adapt a book, my approach obeys a Hitchcockian principle: I read it, I close it and I let my imagination run wild in order to keep in me only what moved me. In a way, it’s a betrayal, but the point is to betray as faithfully as possible, using the book as an inspirational medium that will reveal your own vision. I do not think I have moved away from Diderot’s position because beyond his materialist commitment, the author stands up against the arbitrary authority and intolerance of the Church, what Voltaire called “the infamous “.