Sous le Soleil de Satan
, is sometimes translated as "Under Satan's Sun." This film, directed by Maurice Pialat
, stars Gerard Depardieu
and Sandrine Bonnaire
, and was awarded the Palme D'or
at the Cannes film festival
The film is permeated with a sense of grim dread, sorrow, remorse. It tells the tale of Donnisan (Depardieu) a country priest whose faith seems to stand on shaky ground, who is neither intelligent nor well educated, but whose intense spiritual struggle marks him as a man destined to suffer for his faith.
His large imposing body, his peasant ancestry, his great determination ought to make him strong, but his excessive self-mortification and the inner crisis of his soul weaken him to the point that he's liable to faint at the least exertion. Yet he is endowed with supernatural insight into the souls of others. He is tormented by his passionate desire to bring others to God, though he lives in a world where Satan's presense is tangible, and God seems so remote as to be inaccessible. Though his powers seem miraculous to others, he is not sure whether they dervive from the power of God, or if they are a manifestation of the power of Satan.
Mouchette (Bonnaire) is a young girl living in sin, among sinners, yet she is more a victim than a victimizer. The greatest torment of her life is the spiritual nihilism of her surroundings. She is immersed in corruption so cold that it is indifferent even to the sin of murder. People are only concerned with what directly impacts on them, what threatens their own security. Beyond that, a crime that goes undetected is deemed no crime at all.
Donnisan encounters Mouchette, and his insight penetrates her soul. He reveals to her the possibility of spiritual grace, her own innocence in a corrupt universe under Satan's all pervading presence, and tries to show her a path to salvation. But is her spiritual awakening a blessing or a curse? Can she open her eyes to the grim and cynical reality that she *has* a soul, and that her soul is in jeopardy? Is the challenge too great? Donnisan, by opening Mouchette to an awareness of spiritual matters, transfers some of his spiritual struggle to her, and it proves to be an overwhelming, unbearable burden to an already weakened spirit.
This transferrence doesn't relieve Donnisan of any of his own burden, but rather seems to increase it, by piling on a sense of guilt and futility. He continues to strive for spiritual grace and salvation for others, yet his own faith is never secure, and the temptation is always there to draw on Satan's strength, to save others even at the expense of his own soul, without knowing whether the "salvation" he offers others is real, or only transitory.