It is totally absorbing and the players are so perfect for their roles: Hepburn as the strong-willed and fiercely independent Sister Luke, whose very psyche is torn asunder by the battle between her own innate, personal pride and a sincere desire to live a life of obedience to the Church and its rules; Peter Finch as Dr Fortunati, Edith Evans as Mother Superior (doing marvels with very little screen time), Peggy Ashcroft, Dean Jagger as her father, Mildred Dunnock, Coleen Dewhurst, etc. A totally marvellous achievement and Franz Waxman's score complements the visuals perfectly.
1959 was not only a key year both in cinema and for me, aged 13, and loving all those big hitters of the year, as lots of key directors produced their late classics: BEN HUR, SOME LIKE IT HOT, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, ON THE BEACH, RIO BRAVO, IMITATION OF LIFE, PILLOW TALK, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, SOLOMON AND SHEBA etc, THE NUN'S STORY was up there with them as one of the key dramas of the year and it was of course an enormous hit, for such a solemn film, and it is certainly one of Hepburn's key roles, ably supported by Finch's skilful portrayal of the doctor. After the Congo episode we are back in wartime Europe as Sr Luke tries to settle back into the religious life, but her rebellious spirit will not let her.... The complexities of the religious life are nicely demonstrated when she is asked to fail an essential examination to help another nun go to the Congo. The interiors were actually shot at Cinecitta so just how much of it was shot in Africa I wonder? The seemingly now under-rated Fred Zinnemann showed his mastery again the next year with the wonderful THE SUNDOWNERS and that great re-teaming of Mitchum and Kerr, and of course his 1953 hit FROM HERE TO ETERNITY among others.
I find it incredible that London's National Film Theatre in their Audrey Hepburn season a year or so ago did not include THE NUN'S STORY or indeed the chance to see King Vidor's WAR AND PEACE, 1956, another key Audrey role, on the big screen, as they were focusing on Audrey as the fashion icon and not the actress!