Director Paul Verhoeven has predicted outrage in the United States over his new “religiously guilty” lesbian “non-sploitation” film Benedetta.
Verhoeven – who broke the “barrier of decency” in mainstream films with his cross-legged scene in Basic Instinct – says he doesn’t think Benedetta “will be outrageous, at least not in Western Europe.”
The film is the story of a 17th century French nun who embarks on an affair with another sister. It contains scenes of lesbian sex, self-flagellation, nun-to-nun kissing, and nudity.
But the iconic director fears he may face backlash in the conservative United States, where there is more “puritanism,” he said.
Director Paul Verhoeven predicted outrage in the United States over his new ‘non-sploitation film’ Benedetta ‘religiously guilty and absurd’ (photo)
Verhoeven (pictured in Cannes) – who broke the ‘barrier of decency’ in mainstream films with his cross-legged scene in Basic Instinct – says he doesn’t think the film “will be outrageous, at least not in Western Europe “
Benedetta premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday with rave reviews – with critics calling it “erotic, violent, religiously guilty and absurd” and “the best film on Catholicism since Scorsese’s silence”.
This year’s festival was billed as “the reintroduction of Hollywood red carpet glamor” to fans after the global pandemic shut down cinema and cost the film industry billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Benedetta – whom the octogenarian director dubbed his masterpiece – is based on a true story of an abbess of the same name in Renaissance Italy who had a lesbian affair in her convent while having ‘visions divine ”and being greeted as a saint.
Benedetta is played by Belgian actress and former TV presenter Virginie Efira. Her lover is played by Daphne Patakia, another Belgian starlet.
The film is the story of a 17th century French nun who embarks on an affair with another sister (photo)
The cast of Benedetta is represented, from left to right: Clotilde Courau, Olivier Rabourdin, Virginie Efira, director Paul Verhoeven, Daphne Patakia and Louise Chevillotte
The screenplay was based on Immodest Acts: The Life Of A Lesbian Nun In Renaissance Italy by historian Judith C. Brown, published in 1986.
Verhoeven told The Hollywood Reporter: “I don’t think the film will be outrageous – at least not in Western Europe.
“Maybe Americans will see it differently, though. There is more Puritanism in America – I saw that with Basic Instinct, and even more with Show Girls. ‘
The trailer alone has caused dismay and theaters are ready to protest.
In the video – which lasts less than two minutes – a young novice nun takes a shower, her modesty “protected” by the most fragile of transparent gauze curtains.
As the main character of the film enters – out of habit and out of whack – the young nun “slips”, forcing Benedetta to instinctively extend her hand, almost touching the novice’s bare breast before stepping back in pious shame.
A producer who works for one of Hollywood’s biggest studios said of the film: “Benedetta is competing for the Grand Prix at Cannes and he will have his world premiere there. It is the centerpiece of the festival.
“Sure, it’s controversial, but sex sells. At this point, the studios need to bring people back to the theaters. It’s a question of survival.
“What could be better than a bit of titillating nunsploitation?”
The movie (pictured) contains scenes of lesbian sex, self-flagellation, nun-to-nun kissing and nudity
A Hollywood PR told The Mail on Sunday: “Just watch the trailer for Benedetta.
“There is a graphic sex scene, nudity, flogging, titillation. It’s Basic Instinct with wimps and crucifixes. ‘
Verhoeven insisted that his latest film “empowers” women.
He praises Benedetta as an appropriate heroine for the #MeToo generation because she is a woman who has embraced her sexuality at a time when being a lesbian could result in a burnt woman at the stake.
A source who worked with the director said, “Paul is a genius. This is his magnum opus.
“People criticize him quickly, but his films overlap and they are extremely entertaining.
Benedetta premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday to rave reviews
“Of course people remember Basic Instinct because of the nudity, but you can watch that movie today and it’s still a great movie almost three decades later.
“He’s an author who takes risks and pushes boundaries. That’s what all great artists do.
Verhoeven’s latest film Elle, released in 2016, was about a businesswoman playing cat-and-mouse psychology with the man who brutally raped her.
Critics loved it and it earned an Oscar nomination for lead actress Isabelle Huppert.
A senior executive at a major Hollywood studio said films such as Benedetta were key to reviving a “dead alive” industry.
“Hollywood studios are in big trouble. The pandemic has killed cinemas and people have grown accustomed to seeing new releases on streaming services from the comfort of their homes.
“It has cost the industry billions and continues to do so.
“We have to get people back to theaters to survive.
“We know there are certain movies, Marvel comic book heroes, for example, that will bring a younger audience back. But we have to appeal to a larger population. Movies like Benedetta could save Hollywood.
The next 12 months will be pivotal for Hollywood and that is why films like this are vital to our survival. We need to reintroduce the magic of going to the movies.
Critics have dubbed Benedetta (left) “erotic, violent, religiously guilty and absurd” and “the best film on Catholicism since Scorsese’s silence”. Benedetta is played by Belgian actress and former TV presenter Virginie Efira (right)
Benedetta’s story had reached a mythical status in Italy and was passed down from generation to generation.
But Professor Brown gave the story academic credibility by unearthing new documents in the state archives in Florence, which confirmed the authenticity of the story.
Born in 1591, Benedetta Carlini grew up in a respectable middle-class Italian family and entered the Convent of the Mother of God in Pescia, Tuscany, at the age of nine.
At the time, in Renaissance Italy, bourgeois families often “bought” their daughters a place in a convent because it represented a quarter of the dowry of a marriage and conferred respectability. Benedetta was appointed abbess of the convent at the age of 30.
She reported “visions” that came to her, including one in which Jesus asked to take her as his bride.
The story of Benedetta (the film, pictured) had achieved mythical status in Italy and was passed down from generation to generation
Other visions were more graphic and sexual. She “spoke” with the voice of angels and underwent a mock wedding ceremony at the convent where only she could “see” Jesus, her new husband.
She became a sensation with people flocking to see her and once showed stigmata on her hands – bleeding wounds similar to what the Bible says Christ suffered during the crucifixion.
The other nuns were so concerned with her increasingly disturbing claims that they reported her actions to the papal council in Rome and were ordered to confine Sister Benedetta to her room.
A young novice nun, Sister Bartolomea Crivelli, is responsible for watching over her.
However, the couple embarked on a lesbian affair which ended when Bartolomea told another nun about their illicit romance.
Later, during a papal inquiry, Bartolomea gave graphic testimony of how Benedetta engaged in sexual acts with her while being possessed by the spirit of a “male demon” called Splenditello .
Papal authorities determined that Benedetta’s revelations were the work of the devil, not of God; “A diabolical obsession”.
They stripped her of her rank and she was in the convent “prison” for the remaining 35 years of her life. She died in 1661.