Celine (Julie Sokolowski) is an intense 20-year-old French girl who is a novice at a nunnery. She has come under scrutiny on account of her extreme asceticism and mortification practices. The Mother Superior decides that the best thing for her would be to find her true calling out in the world. Celine reluctantly returns to her wealthy parents' luxurious home. Her father is a minister in the government.
Celine is adrift since all her energies and passion have been focused on her love of Christ. She views him as her lover and has vowed not to have sex with any man. Her purity and rigid faith set her apart from others. Then she meets Yassine (Yassine Salime), an Arab from the projects who develops a crush on her. They attend a concert together and he steals a scooter after its owner gives him a dirty look for being with a French girl. Yassine invites Celine to visit him and there she meets his older brother Nassir (Karl Sarafidis), who is a fervent Muslim who teaches the Qur'an to other believers. He feels a deep connection to this Christian girl, and they begin a journey together that takes some startling turns.
Bruno Dumont is a French director with a philosophical view that shines through all his movies, incuding Twentynine Palms. Although many will find the link between Celine and Hadewijch, a 13th century mystic and poet, to be quite a stretch, the filmmaker has drawn an interesting parallel between the ardent devotional life of this French girl and the Muslim believer who is willing to lay down his life for the cause of the faithful.
The violence that can emanate from zealous belief is a mysterious and terrifying thing. Equally so, the strangeness of divine grace and redemption that come from unexpected sources. Hadewijch addresses both and does so with austerity and power.
Screened at the 47th New York Film Festival, October 2009