In October of 1962, Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II as it is more commonly known. Over the course of the three years that the Council was active, they produced 16 documents that represented the largest change in polocy that Roman Catholic Church had undergone in 500 years. Previously mired in the trappings and thoughts of the medieval church, the Vatican II proclamations modernized the church and updated its practices.
This was a time up great upheaval for the people in the church itself, a time when customs and rituals that had been practiced for centuries were altered or done away with. The Brides of Christ, an Australian miniseries from 1993, looks at how the Vatican II changes affected a convent of nuns, and their pupils, living in Sydney during the early sixties.
Each episode of this six part mini-series focuses on a nun or student, and examines how the react to an aspect of the Catholic Church. The series looks at abortion, birth control, teenage sex, love and the role that dissent has in the church. The young, educated Sister Catherine (Josephine Byrnes) often questions the dogma of the church, while her superior, Sister Agnes (Brenda Fricker) takes the position that church rules and teachings should not be questioned.
But this show isn't just preaching, as a matter of fact there is little of that going on. The focus is on the people and how they react to significant changes in their lives, and the role their religion plays in how they handle their problems.
The show was very good, but just not it wasn't aimed at me, and I'm not sure that I can do it justice. I have some philosophical differences with the Catholic Church that prevented me from fully appreciating this series. My disagreements with some of the premises that the discussions were based on prevented me from being as engaged in the conversations as I normally would be. That doesn't mean that I disliked the show, I didn't. It was very well written, with fully fleshed out three dimensional characters and interesting stories. Many of the stories were touching, and some aspects of the show were very humorous.
The acting is very good, with many excellent actors making appearances. Naomi Watts plays a student at the convent church, and Russel Crowe makes an appearance as a teacher that is hired to work at the school. But it is the main characters that really shine in this production. Brenda Fricker plays the strict Sister Agnes wonderfully, letting her human side show through occasionally and ensuring that her character doesn't become demonized. Josephine Byrnes is also very good as Sister Catherine, and Lisa Hensley did a great job as Sister Paul.
The two-channel mono English audio was appropriate for a dialogue based series. It was not dynamic, but sounded clean and easy to hear. The conversations were easy to understand, even with the accents. There was a bit of hiss in the background, but it wasn't significantly loud. There were no subtitles.
The full screen image has a good amount of grain and digital noise in it. Fine lines have a tendency to shimmer. There is also a significant amount of edge enhancement that can be distracting at times. The colors were bright, and the image was clear, but the digital defects mar the presentation.
The only extras included with this set were text biographies of the main actors.
The strong scripts and quality acting make this a show that even people who are not Catholic can enjoy. If you are interested in the affects that Vatican II had on the church, this would be an excellent series to check out. Even if you are not particularly interesting in the modernization of the church, this is a quality series that is interesting to watch. Recommended.