The Song of Bernadette (Review)



The Song of Bernadette

I had not seen this 1943 film in a number of years and had wondered if I would now find it entirely too compromised by a Hollywood sensibility.

But no, seeing it again in 2010, I found it very, very moving. Indeed, it served to awaken me to numerous important things.

For there are many things to this film. Most importantly of course, there is the story of the barely-educated Pyreneen peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous who meets the Blessed Virgin in 1858 in Lourdes. The Blessed Virgin who brings water of miraculous healing and announces to young Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception” …

href=””>been made in places like this.

But to return to The Song of Bernadette. Some might indeed carp that this story of Catholic France has become too Hollywood and Americanised. But not me. Whatever its limitations, I found here a moving piece of cinema, filled with piety and wonder.

Piety. Piety. Piety. After the film finished, it hit me so very powerfully that this is what we have lost. Our modern critical and cynical world would have us write-off piety as little more than the superstition of a peasantry controlled by clergy.

And little it imagined that it is perhaps we who are the poor peasants, controlled by a corporate priesthood who do not fill our lives with reverence, but rather cynical suspicion spoon-fed to the young.

So many, many forms of media do nothing, except to orient us to our own cynical age. The sense of history becomes eclipsed. There are those I know who seem to know little of the world, except from a narrow window bracketed by something like this: Anglophone civilisation 1968-2010.

But here in this film, we can find a certain measure of tonic at least, in the evocation of Catholic France barely 150 years ago. Before a sense of wonder, reverence and piety was drowned out by a din …

And whatever their imperfections, films like this are very important. For they can serve to awaken us to the fact that even comparatively recent European cultures had such very different values to our own.

And of course, they can also awaken us to the wonderous reality of the Blessed Virgin who loves us more tenderly than any mortal mother and who does not fail to make herself known in places like Lourdes and Knock and La Salette …

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death.


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Book Review: Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo

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  1. Jennifer
    Posted 17 January 2010 at 22:33 | Permalink

    Dear Roger,

    Thank you for such a wonderful site here…I have enjoyed following your journeys. I agree with your take on Song of Bernadette. I saw it for the first time not all that long ago, and was very touched by the level of piety that existed within that little French community. The Church and faith were the centers of life. We have certainly lost much with modernization.
    I have had Charles Coulombe’s book on my list to read for some time now, as well. I heard a lecture that he gave on literature, and was very impressed. After your review, I am even more motivated to read Puritan’s Empire.
    Thanks again!


  2. roger
    Posted 22 January 2010 at 16:44 | Permalink

    Jennifer – thank you very much for this. Such encouragement is definitely helpful to me.

    As for loss … As Edwin has indicated here, measuring loss and gain is impossible. And I was trapped by this for years. Everytime I saw the terrible loss in modernity, a small voice in me would pipe up and say “Well there are gains. For example, it could well be that those French villagers were xenophobic, etc etc”.

    This may well be true – humanity is fallen and the Fall expresses itself in different ways in different epochs – but it still does not cancel out the loss. And yet this served to keep me anaesthetised to the scale of the loss for years . But now I echo you wholeheartedly: “We have certainly lost much with modernization.”

    Yes, yes. And if one has faith and one studies books like Coulombe´s or studies the history of post-revolution France, it becomes clear that we are not only speaking of loss – but of planned destruction. Certain elites actively and systematically worked to destroy things that were infinitely precious to people. And are continuing to.

    Then one is faced with the question of how to be charitable, but not stand idly by …

    Again, my warm thanks Jennifer.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By The Lost Piety of Catholic France (Part I) on 26 January 2010 at 11:36

    […] works silently in me, always. But recently has stirred to greater livingness, watching again The Song of Bernadette, reading Brantigny and moved, moved more than I can say, kneeling at a Requiem Mass for the […]

  2. By The Death Cult Progeny of the Enlightenment II on 15 February 2010 at 14:11

    […] For a film of Catholic France or even a film of Catholic Ireland of not so very long ago can serve to remind us of different alternative Orders on which to build a society. We need whatever can  serve us to break free of the idea that the Current Ordering Principles of materialist society are the only Ordering Principles which we have available to us. […]

  3. […] I confess that I only know this book via the beloved Hollywood adaptation starring Jennifer Jones (my review of which is here). […]

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