The Song of Bernadette (1943)

Article #1050 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2004
Posting Date: 6-27-2004
Directed by Henry King
Featuring Jennifer Jones, William Eyther, Charles Bickford

A poverty-stricken girl in the French city of Lourdes sees visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near a rubbish heap.

I may not be a particularly religious person, but I can appreciate the power of faith and belief and the way it has of transforming the lives of those who possess them. I can also appreciate exquisite film-making, and this movie is definitely an example of the latter; despite a running time of two and a half hours, I was unable to tear myself away from it. It touches on so many resonant issues; at one time or another, you can find yourself relating to any one of the myriad characters with different beliefs, from the simple and sincere belief of Bernadette herself to the scoffing scepticism of the Imperial Prosecutor to the bitter jealousy of the Sister who can’t bring herself to believe. This is helped by a wealth of great performances, so many that I barely know where to start. Jennifer Jones as Bernadette, Gladys Cooper as Sister Marie Therese, Charles Bickford as the Dean of Lourdes, Lee J. Cobb as the doctor who maintains an open mind on the matter, Aubrey Mather as the mayor whose sole interest is in the prosperity of the town (and himself), and, of course, Vincent Price in a tremendous performance as Vital Detour, the Imperial Prosecutor who sets his mind on destroying the credibility of Bernadette. Perhaps the most surprising thing I found about the movie was the wealth of humor to be found; there’s something frankly hilarious at watching the lame attempts of the powers-that-be trying to cope with an event that is beyond their comprehension. The movie is powerful, moving, and gives one much food for thought on the differences between the worlds of the mystical and the mundane.


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