Film Courage: Margaret, what is something about nuns, faith, anything relevant to the film NOVITIATE that you didn’t know previously?
Margaret Qualley: Good question. I’m not really religious. I’m not religious in life. I think I’m spiritual, but I’m not Christian by any means and so it gave me an opportunity to learn about Catholicism and read the Bible for the first time. And then there was a lot about being a nun that I just had no idea about as far as abiding by all of the rules in place to limit any sort of extraneous stimulation. Like custody of the eyes and not being able to touch anybody and not being able to talk freely ever and ideally communicating through sign language and not talking at all during Grand Silence. All of these things were foreign to me and much more extreme than I anticipated.
Film Courage: Maggie for you?
Maggie Betts: What was something I learned that I didn’t know previously (through the process)?
Film Courage: Well I know you read a lot of nun biographies?
Maggie: Yeah…I think the biggest, biggest, biggest thing that you learn (which may come across as like the simplest and the most obvious, too) is that nuns are extremely complex, complicated women. Lots of layers to their personalities, lots of internal struggles.
I think the image of nuns that we have in this society is kind of this one-dimensional, almost like an image, not a person. And what I learned from reading is these are really complicated women that are dealing with really complicated day-in-day-out struggles, the same as every woman I know.
Margaret: Another thing that Maggie talks about a lot is about how literal their relationship is between nuns and God and that is something that I was unaware of, as well. I think what was so exciting about this project was the opportunity to have God be my boyfriend essentially, shown to be my “first love.” In the moments where Cathleen’s praying, she wants it to be like I was talking to my boyfriend in bed with me and I didn’t realize that nuns felt so passionately…we knew obviously they felt…(Watch the video on Youtube here).
NOVITIATE in theaters October 27th, 2017
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Spanning over a decade from the early 1950s through to the mid-60s, NOVITIATE is about a young girl’s first initiation with love, in this case with God. Raised by a non-religious, single mother in rural Tennessee, a scholarship to Catholic school soon finds Cathleen drawn into the mystery and romanticism of a life devoted to the worship and servitude of God.