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The Crack Magazine

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Benedetta

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Virginie Efira, Daphne Patakia, Charlotte Rampling, Lambert Wilson

Paul Verhoeven brings his usual lurid, subtlety-phobic approach to this story of a nun’s sexual awakening, an adaption of Judith Brown’s admittedly already lurid-sounding book ‘Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy’. A prologue shows how as a child Benedetta was sent to the convent by her well-to-do parents, presided over by Sister Felicita (Rampling, who with this and ‘Dune’ is cornering the market in creepy nuns). Some years later Benedetta has become a devout and respected member of the convent, if partial to erotic visions of a hunky sword-toting Jesus, shot with Verhoeven’s trademark absence of restraint. Benedetta’s devout quotidian routines are disrupted with the arrival of Bartolomea (Patakia) a beautiful young peasant woman fleeing from her abusive father. As Bartolomea makes persistent sexual advances to Bendetta, the older nun’s visions intensify, even developing stigmata. This elevates her to a saintly status at the convent, so envious Felicita calls in The Nuncio (Wilson), a less than saintly figure wielding some gruesomely novel torture devices. The cast are game and it rattles along happily enough in a campy, bawdy taste-adverse fashion, but Verhoeven, as usual, is hedging his bets. Sure, the film can be interpreted as a feminist tale of sexual libertines rebelling against the patriarchy, but it’s shot with his typically gaudy soft porn style with the male gaze very much in effect.

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