LA PASSION D’AUGUSTINE (THE PASSION OF AUGUSTINE)
Monday, February 24 | 103 min
Léa Pool | 2015
Canada (Québec) | French (English subtitles)
Simone Beaulieu, better known as Mother Augustine, runs a convent school for girls in the 1960s. She has turned the little convent into a musical treasure where the students have won every prestigious music competition in the region. When her talented but rebellious niece joins the convent and the government threatens to shut down the school in favour of public education, her world is suddenly turned upside down. She and her fellow nuns are forced to confront the waves of modernity and Mother Augustine herself must search her soul for a new calling. Can she accept her past in order to move forward? Or will she perish with tradition?
The Passion of Augustine never feels simplistic, or slow, its leisurely yet purposeful progress gracefully folding in numerous performances of classical piano works — as well as gorgeous vocal excerpts for girls’ and women’s choirs, performed by ensembles from original score composer/music director Francois Dompierre’s alma mater, Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal. While the adult thesps represent a rock-solid cross-section of practiced Quebec stage and screen talent, the younger actors include several newcomers who are genuine musical talents, including pretty, accomplished pianist Ménard. No Catholic-school-is-hell horror story, The Passion of Augustine takes its visual cue from the simultaneous austerity and cheerful industry of the convent, its handsome look furthered by director of photography Daniel Jobin’s frequent shots of the beautiful wintertime countryside. Other tech/design contributions are fine, naturally including the fine-tuned audio aspects.
While God plays an important role in Augustine’s school, music reigns supreme. Piano is her instrument of choice, and her gifted students routinely take home prizes in provincial competitions. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the merits of a top-notch music program, let alone religious schools in general. As Quebec introduces the public school system, Augustine’s school is under threat of closing. Enter Alice (Lysandre Ménard), Augustine’s rebellious teenage niece, a piano prodigy who arrives flashing the peace sign, improvising jazzy flourishes to classical standards and questioning authority at every turn. Needless to say, she ruffles some feathers.
For Augustine, the girl provides challenges on multiple levels. Her musical freedom is closely linked to emotional and social freedoms, which the nun left behind long ago. As a result, Augustine must confront painful moments from her past, as well as the fast-changing reality of the present. (…) The nuns aren’t caricatured as stuffy old marms, but rather as complex characters confronted with great change. For strict French teacher Soeur Lise (Diane Lavallée), change is unthinkable. Augustine is more able to think outside the box. When her world is threatened, she chooses to fight, even if that means leaving behind the reassuring safety of how things have always been done. Pool pulls off a neat trick with La passion d’Augustine. What could have been a simple story of teenage revolt against the stuffy adult world turns into a nuanced tale of generational shift, personal transformation and the galvanizing power of music.
— Montreal Gazette
Winner Audience Award, Angoulême Francophone International Film Festival (France, 2015)
Winner Audience Award, Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival (USA, 2015)
Winner Audience Award,, Outaouais Film Festival (2015)
Jury Awards: Best Feature Film; Best Actress, Céline Bonnier; Best Supporting Actress, Lysandre Ménard; Best Director, Léa Pool; Best Screenplay, Marie Vien and Léa Pool – Newport Beach International Film Festival (USA, 2015)