Paul Verhoeven returns to psychosexual melodrama with this spectacular new genre blend about Catholic mystic and lesbian, Sister Benedetta Carlini.
Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt, Jérôme Seydoux
David Birke, Paul Verhoeven
Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia
France-Netherlands 2021. 126min
With English subtitles
Adapted from Judith Brown’s ‘Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy’, Benedetta tells a story that scandalised Florence in the early 1600s: an infamous nun rose to local power as a mystic, but was subsequently charged with committing scandalous heretic acts (trying to pass off self-inflicted stigmata as miraculous, having a long passionate affair with another nun). It’s a stranger-than-fiction true story that in the hands of the provocateur who gave us Showgirls and Elle, becomes even wilder – both in satire and fetishisation – and a whole lot of fun. Whether fantasising about a hunky Christ or repurposing a statuette of the Virgin Mary, the excellent Virginie Efira enthrals as Benedetta, seamlessly shifting from sincere intensity to scheming camp as the scenes demand. She’s matched by a superb Charlotte Rampling as the convent’s Abbess. And Belgian rising star Daphné Patakia also impresses as Benedetta’s young lover Bartolomea. Lusciously shot by director of photography Jeanne Lapoirie (frequent Catherine Corsini and Robin Campillo collaborator), this is typically tonally complex filmmaking from Verhoeven and a welcome return for a long-time LFF favourite.
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Contains strong scenes of a sexual nature.
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