BENEDETTA (2021)

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Paul Verhoeven & David Birke
Based on the book: “IMMODEST ACTS: THE LIFE OF A LESBIAN NUN IN RENASSINCE ITALY” By: Judith C. Brown

Cinematography: Jeanne LaPoirie
Editor: Job Terburg

Cast: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphne Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Louise Chevillotte, Herve Pierre, Clotilde Courau 

A 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair.


I used to hate period piece films for the most part.  Now I appreciate them for their artistry and attention to detail of the time.

That makes watching them feel so enriching if done well. 

The film does have an overreaching achievement of being and feeling like an epic even though the film takes place in a few locations and in small, close quarters. That no matter the subject matter manages to keep the audience enriched and paying attention. As this is definitely not your typical religious picture. 

This film reminds me of the films as a teenager you stayed up to watch late at night for the promise of sex and nudity, but you might get bored watching at first as you keep waiting for that to be shown and as soon as you are ready to quit you start to get glimpses. That’s films were usually foreign and some were bad. Though some you actually got into while waiting for what you came for. Especially as the characters involved in this relationship are very attractive. Where we see them without clothes often enough.

This is based on a true story and while there is plenty of religion throughout. There is also plenty of violence and while there is certainly exploitation in view. The film never quite feels as dirty or exploitative as director Verhoeven has done in the past. The violence he does show is graphic and suggested at times. 

Here while it is obvious it seems more refined. Even when it gets into the ridiculous it still feels like it is trying to stick to the story above all else. 

The film almost works in two halves as the first part seems to be more about watching the main character serve in servitude in the convent. While slowly being seduced by the wild young woman she convinces herself to be saved from her abusive father. 

The second half involves the main character supposedly having religious visions and Jesus speaking through her. As she starts to have stigmata scars. As she rises through the ranks to be thought of as a saint and believed to be one, the tragedy that befalls those who don’t believe. While also falls into supposed sin with her sexual relationship with the nun she saved.

Though both leads are eye-catching they also offer strong performances throughout 

Throughout the film it shows how power corrupts and leads us to believe that maybe Benedetta is telling the truth while offering evidence that she’s not also. 

The film at times does seem to want to be somewhat of a satire or have a sense of humor, not a strong one, but let’s see some of the far-fetched aspects throughout. 

Watching this nunsploitation epic, there is no doubt if director Paul Verhoeven had made his CRUSADE movie. It would have been a Classic and made Arnold Schwarzenegger a bigger icon.

As it is nice to see directors like Verhoeven do smaller-scale films. Where he is more impressive. As we know he can handle bigger budget movies with panache, but it feels like his smaller films are a lot more memorable and stronger.

Grade: B+