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Directed by Alain Cavalier
Produced by Maurice Bernart
Written by Camille de Casabianca
Alain Cavalier
Starring Catherine Mouchet
Editing by Isabelle Dedieu
Release date(s) May, 1986 (premiere at Cannes)
Running time 94 minutes
Country France
Language French

Thérèse is a film about the life of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. It was first released in 1986 and directed by Alain Cavalier.



Like her older sisters before her, Thérèse Martin is determined to become a Carmelite nun even though she is officially too young to enter the order. Thérèse's stubborn piety wins through, and her love affair with Jesus transfigures her short life. Alain Cavalier's account of Thérèse's joy in her vocation is based on her spiritual autobiography , The Story of a Soul.

Critical responses

The film was first shown on British television in 1987 on a nun-themed film evening, with Black Narcissus, and was introduced by Marina Warner. 'I think Thérèse is a rare and beautiful film... no film has ever before transmitted so involvingly the bliss the mystics describe of communion with God, the intense pleasure a saint like Thérèse felt at her intimacy with Jesus, the deprivation she experienced when He seemed to be absent and the comfort and affection of young women sequestered together... Cavalier's visual style, the film's restrained spectrum, its dove greys, bistres, waxy whites, recall the quiet images Gwen John painted in Normandy of nuns reading, praying... Cavalier scans the properties of convent life... He has learned from Robert Bresson how to linger on an image, how to give symbolic intensity to humdrum objects, by isolating them in the frame, and gentle repetition.'

The film is reviewed in Pauline Kael's ninth collection of movie reviews, Hooked. She is equivocal in her praise for the film. "Mouchet - she resembles the young Sally Field - is convincing as a fifteen year old, [ the actress was 27 in fact] and seems to have the plain, open face of a guileless farm girl. Actually, her cannily underacted performance leaves almost every mood or expression of Thérèse's open to interpretation. We can't read her benevolent, straightforward look; we're kept at a distance. Watching Thérèse is like looking at a book of photographs of respectfully staged tableaux and not being allowed to flip the pages at your own speed. You have to sit there while Cavalier turns them for you, evenly, monotonously, allowing their full morbid beauty to sink in. You're trapped inside his glass bubble."


  • Catherine Mouchet ......... Thérèse Martin
  • Aurore Prieto ................. Céline Martin
  • Sylvie Habault ................ Pauline Martin
  • Ghislaine Mona .............. Marie Martin
  • Hélène Alexandridis ........ Lucie
  • Clémence Massart ......... Prioress
  • Nathalie Bernart ............. Aimée
  • Jean Pelegri .................. Bishop
  • Armand Meppiel ............. Pope Leo XIII
  • Pierre Maintigneux ......... Convent Doctor
  • Joël Lefrançois .............. Young Doctor
  • Beatrice de Vigan .......... Singer


It won the 1987 César Awards for Best Film, Best Writing, and Best Editing. The film also won the Jury Prize at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.[1] Catherine Mouchet won the César Award for Most Promising Actress for 1987 for her performance.


External links

Preceded by
Colonel Redl
Jury Prize, Cannes
Succeeded by
Yeelen tied with
Shinran: Path to Purity
Preceded by
Trois hommes et un couffin
César Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
Au revoir, les enfants


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