Film / The Song of Bernadette

"The spring is not for me..."

A 1943 classic about the life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a shepherdess and later nun who saw eighteen visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes when she was a teenager. Adapted from Franz Werfel's novel of the same name, the film is directed by Henry King and stars Jennifer Jones in an Academy Award-winning turn as Bernadette. Also in the cast are Charles Bickford, William Eythe, Gladys Cooper, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Anne Revere, and Linda Darnell.

From IMDb: "In 1858 France, Bernadette, an adolescent peasant girl, has a vision of "a beautiful lady" in the city dump. She never claims it to be anything other than this, but the townspeople all assume it to be the Virgin Mary. The pompous government officials think she is nuts, and do their best to suppress the girl and her followers, and the church wants nothing to do with the whole matter. But as Bernadette attracts wider and wider attention, the phenomenon overtakes everyone in the town, and transforms their lives."

Tropes seen in this film:

  • Brick Joke: It's not really a joke, but it qualifies as a brick. When we first see Bernadette, she's being chastised by Sister Vauzous for not having memorized a catechism lesson due to illness. Father Peyramale is passing out holy cards. She gets one of the Shepherds at the Nativity (extra meaningful to her, as this was her former occupation), but Sr. Vauzous makes her give it back because she is "not deserving." At the very end, just as Bernie leaves for the convent, Fr. Peyramale gives her the card saying "if you need me, just send me this". She is deeply overcome.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Of course, but entirely justified as the story takes place in France in the 1800s.
  • Determinator: The Lady, and Bernie herself. The Lady wants her chapel and processions, and Bernie's going to see that she gets them, even if she has to stand up to the formidable Fr. Dominique Peyramale. Twice.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Sister Vauzous thinks Bernadette is this. She's wrong.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Bernadette showing her tumor to Sister Vauzous.
  • Heel Realization: Sister Vauzous, along with her My God, What Have I Done?.
  • Hollywood Nuns: This film was the initial Trope Codifier, but every detail was meticulously researched.
  • Ill Girl: Bernadette, who has tuberculosis. Again, Truth in Television: Bernadette was always delicate thanks to her asthma, but she died of bone tuberculosis when in her thirties.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Sister Vauzous, after her Oh, Crap! moment.
    • Vital Dutour has one as well at the end, where he is dying of larynx cancer and goes to the grotto, kneels in front of the spring and whispers "Pray for me, Bernadette".
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Well, Sister Vauzous certainly is.
  • Nuns N' Rosaries: Yes, but also justified.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sister Vauzous (veteran stage actress Gladys Cooper), upon realizing just how very, very wrong she was in assuming that Bernadette had never truly suffered and therefore didn't deserve the visions she received. Twice.
  • Running Gag: The Saint Christopher medals.
  • Taking the Veil: Bernadette is "encouraged" to do this, because the authorities think that having a real-life saint living in the real world is a generally bad idea. Bernadette herself would have liked marriage and a family, but doesn't seem too upset at joining the convent instead. (The real Bernadette, however, became a nun out of her own volition and because she hated having all the attention on her.)
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Bernadette ends up dying from her tuberculosis.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Bernadette lives by this rule.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Antoine Nicolau. He believes Bernadette the instant he sees her in communion with her lady. Although he admits to his mother that he feels "one ought not even to touch a being like that", he still wants to marry her. Actually averted in real life: Antoine and Bernadette really were Just Friends. And he was already married to someone else, anyway.
  • Waif Prophet: Bernadette is an Ill Girl who has visions of "a beautiful lady."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sister Vauzous gives Bernadette one at the tail end of the film about how she has never known real suffering, only for Bernadette to reveal that she has been living with the impossibly painful condition tuberculosis of the bone in her legs for years.
  • Wham Line: "Maybe there is something I can do," says Bernadette immediately prior to revealing her crippling leg tumour and tuberculosis of the bone.