Sous le Soleil de Satan (Masters of Cinema) DVD
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Directed by Maurice Pialat
Produced in 1987
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Alex Davidson appraises a complex and beautiful film of religious doubt, in which Gerard Depardieu's country priest undergoes a crisis of faith.
Maurice Pialat’s Sous le soleil de Satan, atypical in tone to his previous work, remains one of the most controversial winners of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, earning hoots of derision from the gallery.
This was a baffling reaction to a complex, beautiful film, which features several astonishing sequences in its account of a priest (Gerard Depardieu) undergoing a crisis of faith, who begins to believe that it is Satan, rather than God, who rules the world.
The film, based on a novel by Georges Bernanos, is less immediately accessible than Pialat’s previous works, with disorientating, otherworldly sequences (including a magnificent twilight walk with Satan) and a subplot with a young murderess (Sandrine Bonnaire at her most enticing) which briefly overlaps with Depardieu’s storyline before coming to a shocking halt.
This unconventional narrative, and the intense profundity of the subject matter (the nature of good and evil) may have alienated contemporary critics, but now this stands as a probing work which warrants comparison with the spiritually-themed works of Dreyer and Bergman.
Moving, alarming and provocative, this is a sorely-neglected work of a true master of cinema.
Alex Davidson on 25th February 2010
Author of 231 reviews
Positioned somewhere between Bresson's immortal Diary of a Country Priest and Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster, Maurice Pialat's Sous le soleil de Satan addresses the torrent of spiritual and intellectual turmoil unloosed among the denizens of a little country parish.
Gérard Depardieu is the self-abasing curate tortured by questions about his role in God's plan — before an encounter with a material Satan touches off a powerful revelation. At the crux of his vision is profligate brewer's daughter Sandrine Bonnaire. As events unfurl, Maurice Pialat himself provides witness as the seasoned cleric who pronounces the words: 'God wears us down.'
One of the great films of faith made by a non-believer, Sous le soleil de Satan left an indelible mark on spectators from the very moment of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 — where it won the Palme d'Or for Best Film.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 93 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Cat No: EKA40294
Format: DVD Colour
- 2 discs
- Isabelle aux Dombes — Maurice Pialat's first film, an 8-minute work from 1951
- Congrès eucharistique diocèsain — an 8-minute short film by Maurice Pialat from 1953
- Interview with star Gérard Depardieu, conducted by former Cahiers du cinéma editor-in-chief, and current director of the Cinémathèque Française, Serge Toubiana
- Press conference footage with Pialat from the 1987 Cannes Film Festival
- Interview with Pialat and Depardieu, directly after receiving the Palme d'Or award for Best Film at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival
- 1983 television programme dedicated to the film, featuring lengthy interviews with Pialat speaking about the film and his career, and esteemed Catholic writer André Frossard
- Footage shot on the set of Sous le soleil de Satan
- Featurette containing excised scenes and alternative versions of sequences from the film, commented upon by editor Yann Dedet, apprentice editor and future director Cédric Kahn, and screenwriter and assistant Sylvie Pialat
- Original theatrical trailer for Sous le soleil de Satan, along with trailers for the six other Maurice Pialat films released by The Masters of Cinema Series
- 36-page booklet containing a new translation of a massive 2000 career-spanning interview with Maurice Pialat, and more