“The Nun” is a gothic thrill ride

How does this film rank up with the previous “Conjuring” movies?

Rachael Jaeger
Staff Writer

What is most important for setting the ground for any film is the images that it opens with and “The Nun” is no exception. The film begins with the camera panning down a dark tunnel towards a door with the sign that announces, “God ends here” in Latin.

The camera also revisits how the cross is used. The camera zooms on the cross for the first time and just before the young nun jumps to her death, the camera cuts back to the cross which spins upside down. 

The setting is in Romania during the 1950s in a convent that has become predominantly evil that takes over the soul of every nun.

The audience is revealed that only two nuns are left. The one who is older begs the younger one to take care of the problem and tells her she knows what she must do.

The younger one cries that she can’t, and again the camera focuses on a long rope that is tied to the door and then, the young nun leaps out the window and dangles from the rope. 

The camera narrows on the blood dripping from the nun’s toes. 

The Nun introduces another environment where Irene (Taissa Farmiga), who is another young nun is currently in a classroom alone with her colleagues. Irene is not in the official dress as her colleagues, but in normal apparel an ordinary girl would wear.

Just the way Irene is introduced, the theme for the rest of the story is similar when she presents the challenge of what is not talked about in the Bible, such as dinosaurs, and that just because they aren’t mentioned it doesn’t mean that they never existed.

Mother Superior happens in on the group and she sends Irene to the haunted convent with a priest, Anthony Burke (Demián Bichir), who constantly deals with his guilt from a past exorcism he conducted during the World War II era.

Irene’s costume also changes from her normal wear to a professional nun’s dress in all white. As more events unfolded, I took the white to symbolize not just innocence and purity but that she is untouched by both the seen and unseen worlds because she uses her own mind. 

Together Irene and Father Burke join forces with “Frenchie” (Jonas Bloquet) who is familiar with most of the convent’s history and most of the building. 

When the trio arrive at the old convents site, one of the characters remarks about how fresh the blood is and how much of it there is compared to what there should be for how much time has passed.

They also walk through a graveyard with many crosses which becomes a main setting with the events that unfold. 

One of the first things I noticed when they went inside the convent is the crucifix with a beheaded Jesus whose symbol adds to the weight of the demonic presence.

The trio also encountered a veiled figure who Irene assumes is the Mother Superior and who does not answer the first several times that Irene addresses her.

The Mother Superior is so hidden in black that the chills build in audience and anyone who watches also get a feel something is not right.

While Irene and Father Burke are in private eating their supper, she also reveals to Father Burke that she has had visions throughout her life.

Afterwards, he has a nightmare about the boy who ended up dying days after his exorcism and hears bells which lure him to the graveyard where the nuns were buried. Meanwhile through all the years Irene has had visions, she has acquired a discipline for paying attention to her intuition.

The cinematography is powerful when the camera centers on her closed eyes but focused mind, but images of Father Burke’s struggle flow from her head.  

In relation to other cinematic styles, I found the usage of lighting and shadows compelling, especially with the evil presence who masquerades as one of the nuns.

When Irene has her faceoff with the presence, the camera blurs the nun in the background but emerges after Irene senses it.

At the beginning when the audience gleans a sense that Irene questions, the audience at this moment also realizes she is coming to terms with her faith at the same time. 

Also, while Irene is associated with the church, even she succumbs to the overpowering presence of evil and nearly dies, if not for Frenchie. Unfortunately, Frenchie pays for saving her without knowing it himself and hints that he will be The Conjuring universe’s next focus. 

I am not sure how I feel about the universe’s continuation. With each released movie comes its own story and I enjoy the tension from the heightening suspense and mystery with the cinematic plays of different techniques involved.

But I fear when plots will start becoming predictable, if they haven’t already for other people.

Feature photo courtesy of The Associated Press.

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