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Brides of Christ
Brides of Christ
Actors: Josephine Byrnes, Brenda Fricker, Sandy Gore, Lisa Hensley, Naomi Watts
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2005     5hr 27min

Inside the convent walls of Santo Spirito, six remarkable women find themselves caught between centuries old tradition and the radical social changes reshaping the secular world in the 1960s. Bound by their vows, these "Br...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Josephine Byrnes, Brenda Fricker, Sandy Gore, Lisa Hensley, Naomi Watts
Creators: James Bartle, Tony Kavanagh, Sue Smith
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Religion
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 08/09/2005
Original Release Date: 06/13/1993
Theatrical Release Date: 06/13/1993
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 5hr 27min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

So real and honest.
Cynthia M. Vrooman | 08/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was in religious life and this series honestly reflects the joys and sorrows of religious life and the struggles many of the sisters endured during the 60's. I loved all the actresses. They seemed so real. It was so finely tuned and non-judgmental. I bought this film to loan it out to friends so they can understand me better. If that is possible?"
Outstanding dramatic portrayal of conflicts in religious lif
Elizabeth G. Melillo | 08/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The brilliance of this series, where conflicts within the Roman Catholic religious life are treated through incidents in the lives of Sisters and students, may not be captured by all at first glance. The obvious (and superbly handled) theme is adjusting to drastic changes in monastic and Church life. Yet there is a greater depth still in less glaring themes, which mirrored what many Sisters faced.

The community of Spirito Santo is depicted as quite exceptional, with a high intellectual standard and, even in the days before the 'old ways' are abandoned, a degree of warmth and interaction between most Sisters which is beyond what some communities would have experienced. Various Sisters illustrate shortcomings (which one can see only in hindsight) which had drastic implications for the Church at large, not only the religious life (which too often was in its dying days.) For example, the wise, truly caring Mother Ambrose, who at first seems to wish to involve the viewpoints of all Sisters in community decisions, illustrates a very common response of the time - valuing 'unity' (such as that shown in forcing all Sisters into the modified habit) at all costs. It may not be obvious to those who did not have close associations with religious Orders, but, during the period, far more drastic, sometimes devastating, 'options' than a modified garb became permissible, then an unwritten rule, in the name of the 'ways of the community.'

Diane/Sister Catherine is an interesting, if exasperating, character, because, initially, it is to the congregation's credit that one who questioned constantly, often in a superior, smug, and self absorbed fashion, was not dismissed for a lack of 'obedience.' One would wonder why someone of her sort entered religious life in the first place, though there is a strong hint that she overestimates her own intellectual gifts and thinks herself to be quite a prize. Catherine's overall story points out traps into which many Sisters fell.

For example, much of the conflict surrounding Humanae Vitae (the topic of one episode), which was stirred by celibates, arose from anger that the pope's statement was against the recommendations of his committee - the Religious protested more because of collegiality or a sense of 'democracy', where the married (who did not depart in droves, even if they did not obey the directives) largely were not concerned with such consultations. Catherine's ire is not only directed at Rome, but at married people who don't 'take her side up on' the prohibition on birth control. She is too blinded by her own agenda to see the implicit condescension, nor, for all her academic intelligence, does she have the minimal wordly wisdom which would have prevented her from commenting on, let alone interfering in, anything as private as a couple's marital practise.

Another solid image is how many Sisters, looking to show acceptance and dispel a supposed image of their being inapproachable and rigid (though most Spirito Santo Sisters, from the first frame of the film, are anything but), ignored prudence. It is perfectly understandable when student Frances is sent to attend her mother's registry office wedding - yet neither Sisters Catherine nor Paul can see that their attending, then dancing the twist in long habits at the reception, could make them seem vaguely pathetic (look at the queens of cool...), as well as be taken for a protest against teachings of the Church which they represent. The mothers at the school, who avoid Frances' mother, indeed seem hard and uncharitable, but the dimension that is not presented (and which Sisters well might forget, because their desire to seem tolerant could cause tunnel vision) is that parents may not wish their children to see a fuss over one who, to their minds, departed from the commitment of sacramental marriage.

Sister Paul's story was especially insightful. Non-Catholics, or Catholics who were not that aware of matters theological at the time, can miss that this is not merely a tale of a young woman who suddenly is questioning whether her decision to enter a convent should be permanent. In the aftermath of Gaudium et Spes, a document which presented a far from new idea about the 'universal call to holiness,' too many religious minimised the value of their own lives, seeing the 'only call as baptism.' Sister Paul is a delightful young teacher, who seems perfectly happy in convent life, but who is not only dealing with her first strong attraction to a man (whom she cannot see does not return her love, but is using her to 'get back at' the Church as he departs the priesthood in bitterness) but with the sudden new idea that there is no real value in religious life, sees only that she'd serve God just as well as a wife and mother. Ambrose's comment captures a great deal of a situation which many Sisters of sanguine disposition faced: Paul entered at 19 more because it was 'what everyone expected,' and 'never really made a decision in her life.' Her ultimate decision is to remain a religious, but she did not see that she had not developed maturity until confronted with the conflict.

The single deficiency in the presentation was that Sisters who are of more conservative bent are shown as being so because of defects of character rather than conviction. This was a very common idea in religious life at that time - and indeed a manipulative tactic to push conformity. (For example, Sisters who preferred to retain religious garb were convinced that they must want to keep people at a distance - those who wished common prayer schedules were written off as immature.) Though Sister Agnes is an intelligent, learned woman, she is of a very trying, domineering personality, and it seems implicit that her desire for the 'old ways' is based on her difficulty in dealing with others. I was sorry that there was no episode from her point of view. The other 'conservative' Sister who is any major emphasis is pathetic - an emotional wreck who breaks down before the community, sobbing that she wants to be told what to do and does not want to make her own decisions, and then makes a suicide attempt. One could come away from a series which otherwise is notably frank and realistic with the impression that more conservative Sisters were either dreadful personalities or mentally ill.

Of course, there is an element of pathos in the final product as well. The efforts of the Sisters at the time are understandable - seeking to adapt and have a fresh spirit, and to become more available to those whom they served. As time has shown, the very climate of 'options', supposed democracy and dialogue which cut out voices which did not fit the party line and thought such voices inferior, and the conformity, no less than that of the old ways even if it was called being 'community minded' rather than 'obedience,' sounded the death knoll for the positive religious life one sees in this film."
True to experience
Once upon a time | 01/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Having been a nun during these times, I found the experiences fairly true to life. The VERY LAST scene was a heartbreaker. Very well done."
Excellent mini-series from Australia.
Malfoyfan | Santa Clarita, CA USA | 07/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw this mini-series originally on a cable TV channel and then sought it out on VHS (I've had it for a while, obviously). Even with commercials it was mesmerizing, drawing me into the story immediately. I think the scene that really grabbed me was when Diane/Catherine was a little girl trying on her mother's wedding dress and jewelry and she sees the figurine of the Virgin come "alive" for a moment. The series has excellent writing and acting. All the characters, even the more peripheral ones, are fully realized. Some of the actors were familiar to me (Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts - both exuding star quality even as young actors - especially, but also Brenda Fricker), and others I had never seen before, but all were first-rate. The ones that stand out are the actresses who play Catherine and the Reverend Mother of the order.

I'm not Catholic, so some of the issues in the program were new to me and I found them fascinating. It must have been difficult for Catholics in that era to deal with all the changes in the church.

I also thought that the balance between the girls' stories and the nuns' stories was well done. I loved the ending, where the story is both brought full circle and propelled into the future.

All in all, this series is well worth your time for whatever reason you may choose to watch it. The whole series will keep your attention throughout."