The Convent

1995, NR, 90 min. Directed by Manoel de Oliveira. Starring Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, Luis Miguel Cintra, Leonor Silveira, Duarte D'Almeida, Heloisa Miranda.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 1, 1996

The Convent is the first international venture by the 87-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira (Valley of Abraham), whose film career stretches back to the silent era. Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich star in this metaphysical mystery film that has been selected for presentation at two major film festivals: New York and Cannes. Though these two actors lend credence and depth to the film, The Convent is still a wisp of a story -- more evocation than elucidation. Malkovich plays an American scholar, Michael Padovic, who is researching his theory that Shakespeare was a Sephardic Jew. His investigation leads him to a secluded convent library, which he visits with his lovely French wife Hélenè, played by Deneuve. Overseeing their visit is the convent's sinister guardian Balto (Cintra) and its beautiful young librarian Piedade (Silveira). Padovic pays scant attention to his annoyed wife, who in turn occupies her time roaming the grounds with Balto. Piedade reads aloud selections from Göethe's Faust to the preoccupied Padovic. Invocations of Mephistopheles and Helen of Troy are amply mixed with a plethora of Christian symbolism. What does it all mean? I haven't the foggiest. Nor are there any nuns in this convent, only a tarot-card-reading housekeeper and her caretaker husband, Balthazar. I came away from my visit to The Convent feeling as though I were lacking the password.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Manoel de Oliveira Films
Voyage to the Beginning of the World
...

July 19, 2018

A Talking Picture
...

July 19, 2018

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Where in the World Is <i>Bunny Lake</i>?
Where in the World Is Bunny Lake?
Otto Preminger’s masterful abduction thriller still shocks and intrigues

July 20, 2018

Leave No Trace
Into the woods in this moving family drama

July 13, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Convent, Manoel de Oliveira, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, Luis Miguel Cintra, Leonor Silveira, Duarte D'Almeida, Heloisa Miranda

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle