When Sarah (Elodie Bouchez), a young Carmelite nun, arrives in hospital suffering terrible pain her strange symptoms intrigue Jesuit doctor Joachim (Gérard Depardieu). Although the nuns led by stern Mother Emmanuelle (Carmen Maura) spirit Sarah back to their convent in Brazil, Joachim delves into her troubled past. He discovers Sarah shares an almost psychic link with her twin sister Gaëlle (Bouchez again) who has spent the past ten years in jail for an horrific crime.
Even though France produced one of the finest horror films ever made in Eyes Without a Face (1959) and has lately experienced a resurgence in graphic horror, there remains a certain antipathy towards the genre amongst the critical establishment. This might explain why the shift from psychological to visceral towards the denouement of Le Pacte du Silence convinced many French critics the film was a throwback to the schlocky shockers of the 1970s. In truth the film is far from a fright fest and more a psychological drama with vaguely paranormal overtones.
Awkward storytelling leaves the first twenty minutes or so needlessly confusing as director Graham Guit fails to distinguish between events befalling Gaëlle and Sarah, to the point where viewers could be forgiven for thinking them one and the same. Once things settle down, an intriguing puzzle starts to fit together but Guit still proves far too vague on the story details leaving an otherwise compelling plot riddled with holes. A grave looking Gérard Depardieu underplays in a bid to lend credence to his character’s increasingly outlandish actions. Frankly, no Jesuit priest, no matter how conflicted, would likely behave this way. However, the always watchable Elodie Bouchez dominates the film, drawing particularly sympathy for the tortured Gaëlle, who upon release from prison is scorned wherever she goes.
Events grow increasingly absurd once Joachim connects with Gaëlle. An unlikely romance ensues as she convinces him to help her flee to Brazil where the film suddenly swerves into voodoo territory, uncovering an unholy alliance between Carmelite nuns and the local witch doctor whilst a scoop-hungry hack journalist is on their trail. The payoff is confused and unsatisfying while surprisingly poor composite work in scenes with the twins together undoes Bouchez’s skilled acting. Guit strives for intrigue but the film is low on thrills and leaves viewers no incentive to follow the torturous path it weaves.