‘Le Pupille’ Short Film, Explained: What Is The Meaning Behind The Title?

Directed by award-winning artist Alice Rohrwacher, “Le Pupille” is an amazing Italian short film. The director of the movie has won an award at the Cannes Film Festival, which is enough to show that this movie is worth watching too. “Le Pupille” in English means “The Pupils.” The short film is inspired by only one letter! What is so interesting about “Le Pupille,” and what is the reason for the movie’s name? Let’s find out.


Spoilers Ahead

‘Le Pupille’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Short Film?

We see a bunch of orphans in a Catholic school. They are not allowed to do anything without the permission of the sisters and the Mother Superior, Fioralba. The other nuns are somewhat lenient, but Fioralba dictates what needs to be done when an orphan sins, according to her. In the Catholic religion, we often see strict rules of living. The same is highlighted in “Le Pupille.” In the short film, the climate is one of war and uncertainty. During the hard times of war, we see people from the town coming to this orphanage to seek the blessings of pure souls. Orphans are considered the purest in the Catholic religion, and seeking their blessing is known to work wonders. Catholics believe that their prayers always come true. So, in times of despair, people often visit these orphanages to beg for prayers. In the movie, we see a young lady coming to the orphanage to beg the little girls for prayers. She asks them to pray for a young man and shows his picture to them. One of the nuns intrudes on this brief meeting between an outsider and the orphans and asks the lady to come to the parlor if she wants to seek blessings. The girls are asked not to even move an inch without permission. We see how these orphans live under a strict atmosphere but still find the time to do a little chitter-chatter. These chats include sharing secrets. In one of the scenes, we see a little girl named Serafina, who is the center of the story, asking her friends if they hear the voice that is going inside her head. Previously, during an announcement on the radio, Serafina messed up with the radio, and a song started playing. This song includes words like kiss and baby, which Mother Fioralba considers immoral. When she is out of sight, the girls start dancing around and enjoying the music, but as soon as she is back, they are scolded by the nun. In this scene, we see how the girls are not even allowed to dance because they are supposed to surrender themselves to Jesus. “Le Pupille” revolves around the idea of surrendering oneself to Jesus, the savior. The little girls are taught the same ideals that every Catholic Christian follows. The lessons taught are too harsh for little girls without a family to follow, but how will one stop the pupils? The eyes are free to move in any direction, and nobody can control their eyes. Perhaps this was the core message of the movie. Each character is seen acting with their eyes. For example, in one of the scenes, when the girls are put on display on the day of Christmas, they are tied up. People visit the church and seek the blessing of these orphans. One of them is dressed as Jesus, and one of the girls, who is tied up and dressed as an angel, stares at a girl who has come with her mother. The eyes scare the little girl, and she hides behind her mother. This is rather a comic scene. Then we see the same lady who had earlier visited the orphanage. She shares her story with the girls and says her lover is distracted by another woman. This shows how desperate some people become when they are in love; instead of leaving the man, she has come to poor little girls for blessings and even brings a cake to lure them into praying for her. Perhaps this is the reality of our world. People are so blinded by religion and faith that they forget that God would never support cheaters, would he?


What Is The Moral Of The Short Film?

Well, even in the movie, the last words are that they don’t know what the moral is. In the end, the cake that was brought in by the lady to lure the girls is given to the chimney sweepers. Before that, Mother Fioralba had asked the girls to sacrifice one slice for the betterment of the men fighting at the border. Why would God not want little girls to have cake? We don’t think fate and prayers work this way. Today’s situation is different; however, in the olden days, people believed so much in the church that they took extreme measures to sacrifice in order to fulfill their desires. Maybe this was the moral of the story—even though the lady’s wish was to lure the little girls with a cake, her cake ended up with a totally different group.

However, we see how little Serafina becomes a rebel and asks for a cake slice. She gets tempted by the cake but stays true to herself. She is the only girl who has the courage to decline Mother Fioralba’s offer. In the end, we see her sharing bits of the cake with the rest of the girls, who enjoy eating it. This shows they all wanted the cake but were afraid of getting called wicked. Their fear of upsetting the nun and God stopped them from having cake. However tough their lives are, they are still seen sharing little moments of happiness with each other behind closed doors when they are not under supervision. The little moments of joy shown in the short film are heartwarming and, at the same time, quite funny. The director has done an amazing job of highlighting greed, fear, and religious rituals. We see how greed took over little Serafina, but that emotion also helped her to showcase her true emotions. She was fearless at that moment and became a rebel. Mother Fioralba is also seen talking about how there is a bad girl in their orphanage now, and she blames the cake for it.


We also see the hungry group of chimney sweepers enjoying the cake, even though the man who gave it to them dropped it on the ground. The group of men laughed and started eating the cake off the ground. When one is hungry and not bound by the fear of God, one enjoys their meal. One can pray to God and at the same time be grateful for food, according to us. Can a little thing like cake be the reason why someone is bad? No. Of course, a little girl deserves to enjoy dessert on an auspicious day like Christmas, don’t you agree? However, fate runs its course, and in the short film, the cake is meant to go to the chimney sweepers!

‘Le Pupille’ is a 2022 short film directed by Alice Rohrwacher.

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Tarushi Patali
Tarushi Patali
Tarushi is an English Literature graduate, who is currently doing master's in mass communication from Mumbai. She loves making lists and is an avid reader. Also, she likes judging people by their movie taste. In her leisure time you would find her digging random conspiracy pages on Reddit!

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