TELEVISION / BRIEFING / Breaking with old habits

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The Independent Culture
Ever since Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus, screen nuns have been having no end of trouble with the sins of the flesh. In BODY AND SOUL (9pm ITV), Carlton's new six-part drama, Sister Gabriel (the luminous Kristin Scott Thomas) is forced by the suicide of her brother to leave a strict closed order for the first time in 16 years. No sooner has she stepped on to the train than she spots a Cosmopolitan headline proclaiming: 'Sex - can you struggle by without it?', and on arriving at the home of her sister-in-law (Amanda Redman) she is confronted by that most irresistible of temptations, bubble-bath. The first episode, adapted by Paul Hines and Jill Hyem from Marcelle Bernstein's novel, meticulously sets up this clash between body and soul. Senior nuns at the convent warn of the dangers of doing so much as smelling fragrant herbs. Sisters have to give thanks when they wake up by kissing the floor. A Hail Mary is demanded as penance for slamming the door. And over-friendliness with other nuns is discouraged: 'When you go in twos, the Devil makes a third', an older sister admonishes. The drama resembles the nuns' existence: precious few surprises.

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