'Marie's Story' Captures Life's Sacramental Dimensions

By Pacatte, Rose | National Catholic Reporter, May 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

'Marie's Story' Captures Life's Sacramental Dimensions


Pacatte, Rose, National Catholic Reporter


In 1899, when deaf and blind Marie Heurtin is 14 years old, her loving father brings her from the family farm to the Larnay Institute near Poitiers, France, run by the Daughters of Wisdom. The young girl, played by Ariana Rivoire in the film "Marie's Story," extends her face and hands to the warm sun as they ride in the wagon. Marie hugs her father. She is at peace.

The sisters at the institute are either deaf or hearing, and the girls they teach are all deaf. When the mother superior (Brigitte Catillon) and Marie's father (Gilles Triton) go to talk, the girl senses something is different and runs through the garden and climbs a tree.

Young Sr. Marguerite (Isabelle Carre) is sent to bring Marie down and gently extends her hand to Marie and then allows Marie "to see" her by feeling her face. But the moment is lost when the mother superior demands that Marguerite bring Marie down immediately. Monsieur Heurtin departs, taking her daughter with him.

That night, Sr. Marguerite writes in her diary about Marie and believes that teaching the girl may be the reason God called her to be a religious, to free this "imprisoned" soul. She appeals to the rather stereotypical mother superior, who permits Marguerite to go to the farm and bring back Marie.

The parents seem quietly desperate but they obviously love their daughter. The mother (Laure Duthilleul) gives Marguerite a small penknife and explains that this is her daughter's most precious possession, more than dolls.

Marguerite and Marie struggle all the way back to the convent. When they get there, the task seems beyond anyone's ability. Marie terrifies the other girls, and she and Marguerite end up sharing a room so the young mm can watch over her charge.

They come to an uneasy truce. As the days and months go by, Marguerite makes notes in her diary about each setback or victory

Sr. Raphaelle (Noemie Churlet), who cannot hear, is good friends with Marguerite and becomes exasperated at Marie's antics. She advises Marguerite to teach Marie table manners and how "to be" with others. Indeed, Marguerite struggles to get the girl to bathe and to allow someone to brush her hair. The day Marie allows Marguerite to put on stockings and shoes is a memory to cherish.

In ways that will remind audiences of Annie Sullivan's methods with Helen Keller (born just a few years before Marie) in any version of "The Miracle Worker," Marguerite sets out to find the communication key that will unlock Marie's obviously keen intelligence. Until then, it is through smell and touch that Marie makes her way from a wild child to a young woman. …

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