Marie's Story

Screen International, August 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Marie's Story


Dir/scr: Jean-Pierre Ameris. France. 2014. 95mins

Jean-Pierre Ameris' new film reads pretty much like a softer, religious version of The Miracle Worker and while never attempting to match Arthur Penn's tense dramatic punch, he prefers a far more pastoral, less methodical approach, relying to a great extent on the performances of Isabelle Carre and young newcomer Ariana Rivoire, whom he found in an institute for the deaf, where she was still enrolled while shooting the film.

Bound to be tagged an inspirational tale of unfaltering faith and a serious candidate for every Ecumenical prize on sight

Marie's Story (Marie Heurtin) is inspired as much by the story of Marie Heurtin, a 10 year-old deaf, mute and blind girl educated at the Larnay Institute near Poitiers, in France, at the end of the 19th century as by the similar, but far better known case, of Helen Keller,

The Larnay Institute, at that time a religious convent run by "The Sisters of Wisdom" nuns, was dedicated to the education of deaf and mute children, but when Heurtin's parents brought their daughter Marie (Rivoire) in she was first turned down since her blindness prevented the classic use of sign language and there seemed to be no other apparent way for the nuns to communicate with her.

Thanks to the insistence of Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carre), who volunteered to dedicate herself exclusively to the girl, and the faith she deployed despite the repeated failures of all her early efforts to break through the barriers separating them, Marie was not only accepted but, in the course of time and after many setbacks, became fully conversant in sign language, mastered the Braille alphabet, learned to use a typewriter, to play dominoes, to sew, knit and eventually grow into a self-sufficient young woman.

Though a graphic portrait of the method used by Sister Marguerite was published over a hundred years ago by Louis Arnould in a book entitled Soul In Prison, Ameris prefers to dwell in detail only on a single significant stage in the process, teaching her pupil to use sign language For the rest, the script prefers to imply that it is only through painstaking patience, utter devotion and an enormous amount of faith, that Sister Marguerite, despite the declining state of her own health, finally broke through the wall of silence separating Marie from the rest of the world. …

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