Bernadette (French, by Jean Delannoy with Sydney Penny as Bernadette, Robert Lesaffre as her father and Michel Duchaussoy in the role of Napoleon III)

Period : 2nd Republic / 2nd Empire
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Country : France
Medium : Colour
Duration : 100′
Video : Arte Production
Production : Jacques Quintard / Les Films de l’Étoile d’Or
Scenario : Jean Delannoy
Screenplay : Jean Delannoy
Music : Francis Lai
Director of photography : Yves Agostini assisté de Pierre Barbier

Plot : Near Lourdes, in 1857, the eldest daughter of the Soubirous family, Bernadette, sees in a cave a vision of “a young girl dressed in a white robe with a blue sash around her waist”. This revelation soon disturbs village life to such an extent that the Emperor himself is called upon to deal with the situation.

Cast : Michel Duchaussoy (Napoleon III) ; Marie-Brigitte Andrei (Eugénie) ; Sydney Penny (Bernadette Soubirous) ; Roland Lesaffre (François Soubirous) ; Jean-Marc Bory (the vicar Payramate) ; Michèle Simonnet (Louise Soubirous) ; Jean-Marie Bernicat (Monsieur Pailhasson) ; Anne Meson Poliakoff (Toinette Soubirous)

Extract :
“Napoleon III. – He’s still very flushed, don’t you think ? Has he still got a cough ?
Eugénie. – Yes, but after he’s drunk this I’m sure he’ll feel much better.
Napoleon III. – What is it ?
Eugénie. – Water…
Napoleon III. – What sort of water ?
Eugénie. – Water from Lourdes.
Napoleon III. – But you should have asked me first !
Eugénie. – Louis ! Given the seriousness of the situation, it was my duty to try absolutely everything. […] Hundreds of people have been cured by this water.
Napoleon III. – You going to make me a laughing stock. Don’t forget, I am a liberal. Right from the beginning, my government has been opposed to the “Lourdes affair”. My liberal friends will cry foul… when they find out that I treated my son with water from Lourdes!”

Review : Jean Delannoy, one of France’s ablest directors, gives a very historically correct and carefully shot version of the lifestory of Bernadette. Perhaps Sydney Penny (the young Meggy from the television film “The Thorn Birds” with Richard Chamberlain) in the role of Bernadette is a little too sophisticated as the Saint of Lourdes, but on the whole the film hangs together well. The camera work is magisterial, perfectly expressing the beliefs and fears of the people of the Second Empire as regards the young heroine. Particularly memorable are Michel Duchaussoy’s very convincing Napoleon III and Roland Lesaffre’s excellent performance as François Soubirous.

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