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Review: French film similar to Helen Keller story

“Marie’s Story” centers on a French monastery — a school for the deaf — and a nun named Soeur Marguerette, played by Isabelle Carré. Her sole mission is to teach Marie, a young, blind and deaf girl portrayed by Ariana Rivoire, how to communicate and eventually find pleasure in a world outside her own perception.

The story is similar to that of Helen Keller, which has been dramatized as “The Miracle Worker” in English several times. The concept is well-trod, and it feels that way in the film. The two primary characters go through little development. Marguerette starts out as a woman with something missing from her life and trying to fill the void with teaching Marie. She then discovers a newness and excitement about the world through her own eyes in the process.

The major conflict, like in many films of this variant of the dramatic genre, is the metaphorical innocent, Marie. She is reluctant to leave her limited and perplexing existence and emerge into the world that her beneficiaries have imagined for her. Much of the language of the film is physical (often through sign language) rather than verbal. The theme is meant to emphasize the extent the body (and primal nature) plays in the understanding of our environment and the creation of identity.

If only one word could define these sections of the film, it would be “struggle.” There are recurring and often disconcerting images of Marie and Marguerette in a tangle of bodily struggle, often on the floor or on a table or equally strange place; Marguerette continuously imposes her world on Marie, at first through physical struggle, then on a more intuitive level.

The third act is significantly more intriguing, as the two primary characters are able to better communicate and a relationship starts to develop. The implied, darker sadomasochistic element of the relationship is never explored.

The film is generally well-shot with several clever uses of point of view, an increasingly popular technique in French cinema. Thanks to the good cinematography, there are poignant emotional moments, but the lack of engaging characters as well as a lack of emphasis on the more unique elements of the film fails to elevate the piece above better portrayals of the subject matter.

“Marie’s Story” is currently playing at the Guild Cinema until Wednesday. The film is being shown in part thanks to the ABQ French Meetup and the Alliance Française d’Albuquerque.

Nathan Reynolds is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

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