The Nun's Story is about the possibility of achieving perfection. What would it mean to be a perfect human being? Would your version of a perfect human being resemble the woman Sister Luke attempts to become?
Should human beings aspire to be perfect? Should Christians aspire to be like Christ? Are either of these possible?
Why must Sister Luke shed her personality and her memories in order to achieve perfection?
One critic has written that unlike other films about religion, "this film does not treat the audience as the choir that will receive the preaching." How does The Nun's Story treat its audience?
The Nun's Story has been compared to a war movie - "the near military discipline of the novices, trained to proclaim their guilt for breaking the rules and abase themselves in penance, has the psychological reality of enduring boot camp." Is this a fair comparison? How is violence conveyed in this film? Does the movie embrace religion? Attack religion? Is the religious life "against nature"?
Is Sister Luke fighting her own nature in order to be a nun?
Consider Audrey Hepburn's performance. How does it differ from other Hepburn performances? Is her Sister Luke sentimentalized? Ennobled? Do we understand why Gabriele has chosen this life? Do we need to understand her reasons in order to appreciate this film?
The editor of one of Fred Zinnemann's later films wrote that the director "loved it when actors bumped into the furniture, when they were not yet familiar with the scene and didn't know where they were going. He loved that kind of randomness. He said, in life, events are always happening for the first time, they're not happening for the seventh time." Do we see evidence of his love of randomness and improvisation in this film?
One critic has written that "the typical Zinnemann film reaches a climax when a clock ticks away the seconds while the protagonist struggles with the enemy within, and somewhere close by there's a locomotive coming. In his body of work there are notably few guns but many trains, remarkably little romance or outright comedy, but much searching for consequences and externalizing of interior dramas." How appropriate is this as a description of The Nun's Story?