It’s rare that we cry through a film. Hollywood cheesiness has about as much effect on us as a doorbell on a deaf person. But when my wife and I saw this recent French film about a blind and deaf girl in the late nineteenth century, we could not help but weep for joy, sorrow, and deep, abiding Hope in the world to come.
Marie’s Story tells the story of Marie Heurtin, a blind and deaf girl whose parents bring her to the convent Notre Dame de Larnay, where the sisters have a school for the deaf. One sister, Marguerite, takes particular interest in Marie’s extreme isolation and loves her into discovery of the world with all of its created wonders. After her first discovery of the signed word for “knife”, she explodes with a hunger and thirst for knowledge. The movie ends with an incredibly poignant scene where Marie kneels at the grave of her dead teacher and tells her about another deaf and blind girl recently arrived at the school who is also, “waiting for the word.”
It is another incredible tale of unbelievable perseverance in the face of almost impossible odds. Just like Annie Sullivan with Helen Keller, Sister Marguerite had to push past years of wild and unmannerly behavior to reach the soul of her pupil. And when she reached out for Marie, Marie in turn reached out and cared for her on her deathbed. The French all seem to have a knack for making films that tell a story like this one with such quiet dignity and profound, artistic beauty. It is a movie you can follow and deeply appreciate even without reading or hearing a word that the actors are saying. It is yet another perennial example of the word becoming flesh.