Guillaume Nicloux's adaptation of Denis Diderot's novel boasts exceptional production design and period detail but is also heavier going than it should be.
Unfolding in 1760s France, it tells the grim story of Suzanne (Pauline Etienne), a young aristocrat sent to a convent by her family.
When she rebels, she experiences extreme cruelty at the hands of a wantonly sadistic Mother Superior (Louise Bourgoin) and becomes an object of erotic fascination for another (Isabelle Huppert). The film never slips into prurience or sensationalism – and that's the problem.
The earnest solemnity of the storytelling risks making it a hair shirt-like ordeal for audiences, too.