France 2 Cinéma

Drama History Romance
131 min     6.8     2021     Belgium


A 17th-century nun becomes entangled in a forbidden lesbian affair with a novice. But it is Benedetta's shocking religious visions that threaten to shake the Church to its core.


CinemaSerf wrote:
After living in a nunnery in Pescia since her youth, "Benedetta" (Virginie Efira) has visions that lead her to believe that she is speaking directly to Jesus. A somewhat sceptical Mother Superior (Charlotte Rampling) and her fellow nun "Christina" (Louise Cevillotte) have doubts, but those are not shared by an all-too-willing clergy and soon the young woman is the new Abbess. Simultaneously, the nunnery takes in the young "Bartolomea" (Daphne Patakia) from a torrid and violent relationship with her father and the two women become fast friends - with benefits! When the erstwhile Abbess flees to seek the intervention of the Papal Nuncio (Lambert Wilson) the full power of the church now confronts "Benedetta" - is she really a conduit from their Saviour, or is she no more than a fraud with "bestial" tendencies? The film looks stunning, the attention to the detail is excellent and Paul Verhoeven manages to delicately weave a story that demonstrates just how naive and gullible folks were in the 17th century; how fearful they were of god - and more importantly, the church and he uses the symbolism of the stigmata and of the crown of thorns to illustrate successfully the profound nature of deeply-held attitudes held by a largely ignorant, superstitious, population - especially as the plague approaches their city. It is based in fact, so the ending has limited scope for jeopardy; but Efira is superb in the role as are Cevilotte and Rampling - whose position as the story develops becomes quite an intriguing tightrope act. Sex features prominently, but none of it is gratuitous or seamy - it seems perfectly natural until used as a means of torture (and not in any kinky way!). Was she a charlatan? I know what I think...