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Léon Morin, Priest


“Heaven was made especially for you.”

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A small Alpine town in occupied France is the setting for Jean-Pierre Melville's (Le Samouraï) tale of longing, belief and resistance. Young widow Barny (Emmanuelle Riva, Hiroshima Mon Amour) is raising her daughter alone after the death of her Jewish husband. Embittered by loss and what she sees as the passivity of the Catholic church she has renounced her faith, until a chance encounter with handsome priest Léon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Breathless) spurs a passionate theological debate. As increasing suspicion from the German Gestapo makes life in the town more dangerous than ever, Barny wrestles with loneliness and repressed desire, unsure whether she is drawn in by the man or the God he represents.

Why You Should See This Film

The first of three collaborations between director Jean-Pierre Melville and actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, Léon Morin is something of a departure from the existentialist gangster and noir films the auteur is best known for. It sees the director touch once more on the subject of the French Resistance (which Melville himself served with), which alongside the theological arguments is woven into the central drama: two people who are completely at odds in their politics, morality and life choices but nevertheless feel a powerful connection between them. Belmondo is fascinating as a young priest not above using his charm to win back wayward members of the flock, while Riva burns with such passionate intensity that merely brushing the hem of a vestment might cause her to catch aflame.

Jean-Pierre Melville
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva, Irène Tunc
117 minutes
German, French with English subtitles

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