Still from the film Benedetta
still from the film BENEDETTA

Sex, power, the plague, and the Church collide in Paul Verhoeven’s barnburner of a historical drama, based on the real events of a 17th-century miracle-performing nun who becomes entangled in a forbidden affair with a novice.

In the Associated Press’ zero-star review of Benedetta, the film is pithily summarized as “like Showgirls in a convent.” Yet, Benedetta is perhaps too invested in earnest spiritual inquiry to ever achieve the level of camp excess that the pull-quote implies. (Director Paul Verhoeven co-authored a book about the life of Jesus, after all.)

Rather than plunder his own filmography for inspiration, Verhoeven channels the late, great Ken Russell (The Devils) with his gleeful mixture of the sacred and the profane in this tale, based on real events. Though there is plenty of titillation to be found, Verhoeven is perhaps most interested in displaying the corrupting power structures of the Church, which might better explain the religious uproar over this film.

Part of our French Film Festival, supported by the Albertine Cinematheque, a program of FACE Foundation and Villa Albertine, with support from the CNC / Centre National du Cinema, and SACEM / Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain.

“Forgoing the hallmarks of prestige cinema, this delirious, erotic, and violent melodrama is told with a boundless spirit for scandal, and unabashedly courts blasphemy as it unfolds its tale of religious hypocrisy.” — Film at Lincoln Center

“Cloister drama gives way to steamy soft-core romance gives way to camp comedy gives way to apocalyptic horror.” — Vanity Fair

Film website:

In French with English subtitles