Benedetta (2021)

Biography/ Drama/ History
Rated 18
Spoiler Free

A film about lesbian nuns is always going to appeal to a certain crowd and I’ll admit that in the right mood I’m among them. A French film (well, spoken in French set in Italy) about a real life, 17th Century nun, who experienced erotic dreams of Jesus and was accused of having a relationship with another woman in the convent… nope, whatever way you spin it, sounds like softcore porn doesn’t it.

What if I told you that Benedetta is directed by Dutch master Paul Verhoeven, who made RoboCop, Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct? Yeah yeah I know, but while his Hollywood resume leans largely on cleverly crude cinema with lots of excitement, admittedly with some mixed results, Verhoeven’s European films are vastly different. He has made, in my opinion, one of the best ever Sci-Fi films (RoboCop) and one of the best ever war films (Black Book) and what’s so beautiful about them is the polarity in substance and style. That’s what makes him a genius in my eyes.

Despite all this positivity, another genius who also tends to genre hop, David Cronenberg, had a new film out earlier this year. Crimes of the Future was a weird, uninteresting 107 minute paraphiliac masturbatory aid. I was scared to go back into the water with one of my favourite directors, but what with it being sexy, warrior Jesus’ birthday and all I thought screw it, I’ll rent Benedetta and hopefully the subtitles don’t distract from all the hot nun action.

I bet repressed religious people do get all confused in their horny brains for the idea of Jesus wood (he was a carpenter after all). Religion and fucking have an unhealthy relationship, and that’s what Benedetta confronts, but with so much more than a synopsis can capture. As titular sister Benedetta (Virginie Efira) grows in faith and standing in the convent, allegiances, false prophets and politics take root then sprout. Yes there’s naked nuns who are obviously all very attractive, but through flagellation and bubouses, the story eclipses itself.

Benedetta wavers and shifts, keeping you on the back foot as to who’s doing what and to whom and why. Except for when they’re explicitly fingering one another. Then you know. Who is the architect of Benedetta’s perspective, which of the main characters actually holds the power? It’s astonishingly and I’ll admit, surprisingly, clever for a film which I wished would be more than smut, but didn’t really expect to be.

Encompassing all the mortal maleficence, the slippery, easy sins which slide out of us daily and those which take more effort, Benedetta's players and pieces shimmy and circle one another to match point. The story just gets better and better and more engrossing.

Bedsit it?

One hell of a rollercoaster which I hadn’t expected to be so caught up in, even though I held cautiously high hopes. Equipped with the odd, sharp and amusing, line, and definitely surreal, Benedetta is not a comedy. Though it is far funnier and more sexy than Nuns on the Run. Violent, sexy, engrossing cinema. 9/10, a revelation.

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