Movie 3min

The Sign of the Cross (1899)


Director Georges Méliès
Country France
Language French
(Country Spesific) The Devil in a Convent
(Original) Le Diable au Couvent
(Country Spesific) The Sign of the Cross, or the Devil in a Convent
Angels Black and White Blasphemy Church Clergy Comedy Convent Demons Exorcism Fantasy Horror Nun Priest Sabbath Satirical Sermon Short Silent Film St. Michael The Devil Trick Film

A priest is officiating at a convent preparing for the sermon when the Devil appears and substitutes him. The Devil frightens away the nuns and turns the place into a mini-Pandemonium. Different people try to drive him out until the church combined with an animated statue of St. Michel are victorious.

Some critics say that the film parodies monastic life, suggesting "The Devil in a Convent" shows a satirical view of the Catholic Church. It came out a bit later than another religious-themed film by Melies considered to be satirical, namely "The Temptation of Saint Anthony". In 1995, a hand-colored print of "The Devil in a Convent" was saved from a garbage bin in Bilbao together with 31 other films, and later in 2010 donated to Cinémathèque Basque.

3 Scenes
Translated from the Star Film Company Catalogue, film number 185–187. All the scenes use the same backdrop, so they are only thematically separated.
The Nuns, the Sermon (Les Nonnes, le Sermon)
The Demons, the Sabbath (Les Démons, le Sabbat)
The Clergy, The Exorcism (Le Clergé, l'Exorcisme)
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Georges Méliès - The Devil
Whimsical, but tells a complete story

I generally don't gravitate towards whimsical comedies of religious topics as they seem to obfuscate every message - and Méliès is kind of an embodyment of all that, making a satire of religious belief adding a bit of blasphemy in the Devil redecorating the convent. In the end, good wins, but still - I feel like it is more of a show of of tricks in a fast paced manner. I get why people like this one of the early Méliès films, because it is well made an tells a complete story from the beginning where a priest is preparing for a sermon, through when the Devil hijacks it and redecorate the place, until the end where various people try to remove him but manage it ony with the help of archangel Michael. I must have generated quite the laughs in it's time.