Benedetta is the sinful film of 2021 directed by Paul Verhoevena shocking and daring tale that originates from Judith C. Brown’s essay Impure Acts – Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.
It is a reconstruction inspired by the life of Benedetta Carlinia seventeenth-century nun who upsets the balance of the convent of Pesciain Tuscany.
Sex and religion
Since childhood Benedetta (Virginie Efira) is animated by a fervent religious faith that leads her to be part of a monastery, where she is taught right away that suffering is the way God manifests.
She is devoted and obedient until the arrival of a new adept named Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia), a young peasant woman, upsets her, transporting her to the murky discovery of carnal love, of sexual pleasure.
Thus begins a sapphic love between the two that destabilizes Benedetta, disputed between the erotic visions of a Jesus-boyfriend and the tangible impulses towards a woman.
However, what makes the protagonist ambiguous and controversial is the mystical force that pushes her to do the alleged miracles.
The appearance of the stigmata is proof of her holiness, Benedetta is promoted to abbess and the convent becomes the center of a political and religious event, between incredulous people and other devotees.
But the rumors of sacrilegious sins and suspicions of witchcraft begin to circulate and Benedetta is placed in front of a renewed personal awareness, aimed at plumbing the roots of her faith and her obedience to the Church.
Particularly shocking is an instrument in the film: a statuette depicting the Madonna that is worked in the lower part (by Bartolomea) to make a vibrator, thus able to give pleasure to his beloved.
It is a provocative act by the director, who is dedicated to stories of sex and nudity (which is also imbued with his famous Basic instinct), stages blasphemy.
A blasphemy although it has always existed, reported in numerous studies and researches, which, however, is scandalous when seen up close.
Matters of power
In the religious logic of this era everything is based on sacrificewhich leads to holiness and therefore to power.
What the most ambitious nuns yearn for is a prominent position within the convent, in this way the suffering of a life dedicated to the love of an immaterial god can be alleviated by the comforts and decision-making power over others.
In this style exercise that mixes different film genres (horror, comedy, drama), Verhoeven shows all his skepticism for a past reality, centered on religion.
And carefully examines existences, inevitably influenced and influenced by the sacred.
The film revolves around the devotionexperienced in an all-encompassing way by people and therefore capable of shaping their thoughts and actions.
Benedetta’s amorality is almost unbearable: transgressive, lustful and dominating.
As the film continues, however, a form of redemption can be found in the uncontrolled attitude of the protagonist.
In a society where deprivation and suffering are the cornerstones, body pleasure is a sin and the supremacy resides in religion, then perhaps Benedetta is only trying to subvert an established order to find the meaning of the gift of life.
Going further becomes a means of knowing beyond doctrinal conventions.
But throughout the story the central question remains open: was Benedetta a manipulative mythomaniac or a prophetess?
It is the viewer who decides.