Spoiler Alert! Benedetta (2021) or Blessed Virgin was directed and co-written by Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven is a Dutch filmmaker known for Showgirls (1995) and RoboCop (1987).
The film tells the story of Benedetta, a 17th century nun who joins a convent. She experiences what she believes are visions from Jesus, at the same time she falls in love with another nun. Oh, and all of this happens during the Black Death. Benedetta is based on a true story. The film drew on information from a book published in 1986 called Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Rennisance written by Judith C. Brown.
The film is a genre bending exploration of so many things. The performances are incredible. Verhoeven introduces criticism of organized religion in a way that doesn’t feel overbearing or distracting. The focus is really on the journey of our lead character and how she impacts those around her.
The costume and art design are perfect. We’re brought into the minimal world of the convent and shown the horrifying plague that’s desecrating the country. The audience is thrown between passionate sex scenes and horrifying imagery of plague and self flagellation. Which mirrors one of the points that Verhoeven is making with Benedetta. The line between good and evil is so blurred and unclear, especially in the setting of this movie.
Benedetta is portrayed by Virgine Efira, and Daphne Patakia as her lover, Bartolomea. Both actors did an incredible job.
Benedetta was filmed in Italy and France and is a French language film. I absolutely loved it. And though I wouldn’t call it specifically horror, I would say it flirts with the genre and presents terrifying experiences. As a modern viewer, it feels incredibly inconceivable to live through the torture and constraints that our leads endure. And yet, at its core there are themes that feel very relatable.
I’m now fully invested in learning about Benedetta Carlini, the real nun who inspired this film. There will probably be a post about her coming up soon…if I had to guess.