Don’t think of this as a French film
Gerard Depardieu stars in a large number of films–some are superb, and some are stinkers. This film falls in the latter category.
In Pact of Silence, Depardieu plays Joachim–a Jesuit priest/doctor who is both concerned and fascinated by the illness of a young Carmelite nun, Sarah, who is under his care. A medical examination, a stay in the hospital, and tests reveal that there is no underlying cause for the acute abdominal pains that cause her to collapse. Joachim believes that Sarah’s physical illness is rooted in psychological causes. The mother superior, Mother Emmanuelle (Carmen Maura) whisks Sarah out of the hospital before Joachim can confirm his suspicions.
Joachim is compelled to look further into the case, and after a little detective work, he discovers that Sarah’s identical twin sister, Gaelle, is in prison for a murder she committed as a child. There seems to be some evidence–at least on the part of the Carmelite nuns–to disguise Sarah’s past. Joachim decides to track down Gaelle and see if he can get some answers.
Where to start…
Joachim is supposed to be so obsessed with these twin sisters that he commits severe violations in order to discover the truth. Depardieu is a phenomenal actor, but his heart was not in this role. He didn’t seem obsessed. He seemed mildly interested, and that just about describes my relationship with the film too. The whole grabby love story was preposterous.
I can’t reveal too much of the plot, but there were some RAGING inconsistencies here and many loose ends that were simply never addressed. What is the terrible thing in Joachim’s past? (A couple of flashbacks aren’t enough, sorry, in light of his later actions). Why did the Carmelite nuns go to such lengths to ward off Joachim? (Unfortunately, you’ll have to see the film to know what I’m talking about.) And then the entire denouement was totally unbelievable and the film slid into cheesy plot manipulations to tie everything together. The one saving grace to this film was actress Elodie Bouchez who played Gaelle/Sarah. Her performance was quite touching.
If you take away the French accents and subtitles, what is left is a cheesy plot full of holes. Yes, there were elements of psychic phenomenon–all that twin stuff-but bottom line, if this was an American film it would be laughed off the video shelves.