One of cinema’s great provocateurs, Paul Verhoeven, regales the true story of illicit sexuality within the confines of a 17th-century Italian convent.
Benedetta has lived a convent existence since she was eight years old. Now an adult, she lives a rarefied life, her spirituality a contrast to the crass abrasiveness of the mortals who exist outside the walls of her hallowed home. A series of events lead some to wonder whether the Holy Spirit speaks directly through Benedetta. But such beliefs are undermined by her attachment to a peasant girl who seeks refuge in the convent.
Very (very!) loosely adapted from Judith C. Brown’s Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, which details the rare documenting of homosexuality within the Catholic Church, Verhoeven’s film certainly has much to say about the cynicism and hypocrisy of the institution, particularly its patriarchy. And it might present itself as desiring a more serious approach to the convergence of sexuality and spirituality than the ‘nunsploitation’ films of old. But Verhoeven’s undeniable skill notwithstanding, the director of Turkish Delight, Showgirls and Elle revels in the antics he portrays. Too knowing to take itself too seriously, Benedetta is guaranteed to provoke endless conversation.