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Benedetta
Institute of Contemporary Arts
June 2022
Benedetta, dir. Paul Verhoeven, France / The Netherlands / Belgium 2021, 132 min., French with English subtitles, 18


Paul Verhoeven marks 50 years since his feature debut with a typically transgressive and controversial look at faith, power and religion through the apparently true story of a lesbian nun in 17th-century Italy. 

Benedetta (Virginie Efira) is a nun whose religious fervour begins to manifest in increasingly violent and sensual visions of Jesus. Her hallucinations arouse the suspicions of Sister Felicita (Charlotte Rampling) – and her distrust only grows when a farm girl called Bartolomea (Daphné Patakia) enters the convent and quickly develops an attraction to Benedetta. The feature may be ostensibly inspired by a work of historical scholarship, Judith C. Brown’s Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy – but this is very much Verhoeven’s movie, and every bit as scandalous and subversive as you would expect from the director of Basic Instinct.
 
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