BENEDETTA is a new take on timeless themes
My impressions of the religious movies we watched growing up -The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Joan of Arc were a strange mix of passionate beliefs, sometimes homoerotic friendships, and savagery. BENEDTEEA, from powerhouse director Paul Verhoeven, adds unabashed nudity and more in an attempt to shock. The result is an odd mix that will interest you and make you laugh at times - perhaps unintentionally.
Based on a true story of a young girl from a wealthy family who comes of age in a convent in Pescia, She may be a miracle worker with religious and erotic visions. The Reverend Mother (slyly played by Charlotte Rampling) does what needs to be done to ensure the convent has the funds needed to survive. Despite the austere conditions, the singing and the prayers all comfort this group of sad women.
Virginie Efira's work in the title role is brave, brawny, and beautiful. Her expressive eyes are such a fascinating window to the soul. When she has a vision or is possessed by a higher power, I was as scared as the characters in the film.
The historical production design - particularly the musical instruments - was very appealing. The political backstabbing in the convent makes the plot a Klutzy at times, and the portrayals of the male church leaders who come to set the situation in the convent to rights are all one-dimension. Their poor behaviors make the nuns look saintly by contrast.
As the plague spares Pescia but consumes the rest of Italy, Benedetta returns to the only life she had known, and though her fellow sisters shunned her, she lived to be 80 years old.
Filmgoers with a faith background might get more out of this film. But I am not sure any audience will entirely excuse the excesses that the director put his cast and audience through.