Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
Education and divine mission are at the fore of this French drama based on the true story of Marie Heurtin, born deaf and blind in 1885. Raised alone with her parents, she dwells in an unknowable world: the sensation of sunlight on her skin and the texture of the natural world are the defining features of her universe, and she thrashes violently at anything unpleasant. Her exhausted father takes her to Larnay Convent, where girls learn sign language and become nuns themselves. The sisters don’t want to take Marie – except for impassioned Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré), who believes it God’s will that she teach Marie to communicate, against the wishes of her Mother Superior.
Audiences are more likely to be familiar with the parallel tale of American Helen Keller, born five years ahead of Marie Heurtin. In both stories, the patience and persistence of the teacher is to be marvelled at, as is the powerful bond with their student. Beautifully wild and understandably angry, deaf actress Ariana Rivoire portrays Marie’s incredible journey with honesty and dynamism, as her life totally transforms through the discovery of language. The viewer is immersed into the pastoral landscapes of rural France and this miraculous story of a human spirit released into a much richer sense of being. Simple in its storytelling, yet moving in its climax, Marie’s Story reminds us of the graciousness of teachers in opening doors of understanding, and that however unlikely an outcome seems, there is always the possibility of a fuller experience of life. — JR