This 2015 film, directed by Anne Fontaine, was showed in the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle.
The opening scene to this film displayed a convent in Poland, 1945, and as you would expect, the sisters were singing praises to the Lord. What we were not expecting was a high pitched scream. At this point, we were unaware of the cause and it was not until one of the sisters convinced a red cross nurse to help, that we realised the awful truth.
The French Red Cross nurse, Mathilde was taken into a room where one of the sisters was lying on a bed, clearly pregnant and in labour. The nurse informed the sisters that it was a breech baby and had to be removed through an emergency caesarean.
The sisters and mother were informed that the new born baby was taken away and given to a new mother. Meanwhile, Sister Anna was treated after collapsing in the hallway. The convent asked a big favour of Mathilde and requested that she kept their secret. The convent could not call in help or the convent would be shut down.
Mathilde continued to assist with the Red Cross, whilst travelling to the convent in secret and providing medical care. She cared about the polish and she was more than happy to help them, even though she knew getting caught would get her in trouble.
Mathilde was driving back from the convent late at night on day, and she was stopped by two soldiers. They were violent and were about to be assault her when the commander arrived. Mathilde was shaken and upset, and was sent home.
The next day, a group of soldiers, visited the convent and insisted that they were hiding imposters. The soldiers were so close to discovering their secret , when Mathilde explained that the convent was hit with an epidemic. As a result they left, but threatened to return!
Her disappearances at night and lack of sleep became suspicious to her colleague and he started to question her whereabouts. Mathilde still kept their secret and was loyal to the convent. She was called in to treat the mother of the convent, however found this difficult as she refused the help and additional drugs.
Mathilde was then faced with a harsh reality and found out that the Red Cross would be leaving Poland at the end of the month. Their mission of aid was complete and Mathilde was unsure of how to inform the sisters. The timing of this news was inconvenient as the convent was reliant on Mathilde and were approaching the birth of dates of various sisters.
Her fellow colleague was getting even more suspicious and Maria told him about the convent. She informed him of how soldiers had invaded the convent a year ago, stayed for a few days and impregnating seven sisters.
Mother of the convent did her normal duties and took Sister Zofia’s new born baby to their new parents. Hours after giving birth, Sister Zofia collapsed and died. The nuns grieved over her death and Zofia’s parents are informed. This scene was heartbreaking to watch and I felt myself tearing up.
Mathilde’s male colleague and surgeon came with her to the convent, after find out their secret and came to help. Sister Irena gave birth and with the knowledge of where their babies have gone, the baby was taken to the Red Cross centre, to protect them from the mother of the convent.
Mathilde has an idea that can stop the convent from hiding their secret and proposed that the convent took in some orphans. That way the public would not know about the pregnancies and the convent would be more welcoming to the public. It was this moment when they were all told where the babies were really being taken… instead of being given to a new family, the newborns were placed in a basket and left on a hill in the snow, overlooking the landscape. While the sisters enjoyed having children around, the mother of the convent could not forgive herself for abandoning the babies in the cold.
Mathilde was happy to be a part of the convent and thanked them when she moved away with the Red Cross.
The film was complex and showed how innocent and good people can be exploited. The caring character of Mathilde expressed the importance of friendship and trust and the fact that it was a true story, emphasised that there are people in the world who are selfless and would do anything to help others. This is such a feel good film, even if there are scenes of sadness and surprise.
Bye for now 🙂