The film was based upon the novel by Franz Werfel, one of the greatest Catholic novels written by a non-Catholic. When Werfel, who was Jewish, was escaping the Nazis, he and his wife (the notorious Alma Mahler) stopped in Lourdes on their way to Spain. Werfel found a great deal of spiritual consolation in Lourdes, and promised the long dead Bernadette that he would write down her story. The novel and film romanticize some aspects of Bernadette's life; a few historical liberties are taken. But the portrayals of Bernadette and her family, particularly her horrified parents, already overwhelmed by trials, are fairly accurate, as is the recounting of the amazing events at the grotto.
Remarkably, both the book and film emphasize that it was not the apparitions that made Bernadette into a saint. Rather, it was how she accepted the trials sent by God, from the humiliations in the convent to the debilitating and agonizing health problems that killed her. In the final scene, the faith of a dying nun illuminates a darkening world. I rejoice that her moment of light is artistically captured on film for posterity. Share