Benedetta - Lilith Likes to Watch Nunvember 2022

Title: Benedetta
Starring: Virginie Efira, Daphne Patakia
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Synopsis: In the late 17th century, with plague ravaging the land, Benedetta Carlini joins the convent in Pescia, Tuscany, as a novice. Capable from an early age of performing miracles, Benedetta’s impact on life in the community is immediate and momentous. - Via
Lilith's Notes: Based on the true story of Abbess Benedetta Carlini

"A pure soul requires a pure body"

This movie...

This movie has been, for me, for over a year, forbidden fruit. Between the pandemic and my being in Canada, and just general timing, things never lined up and I was unable to see this film until it came to streaming and rental. Much like the nuns in the town of Pescia who were also under threat of a plague, I waited, cloistered in my home for the moment where I too would be able to sample the divine sights of Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta.

At the tender age of eight, Benedetta Carlini enters an abby to become a nun. On the night she arrives, she has her first taste of the oppressive life without possessions, and tiny tortures. She prays to a statue of The Virgin Mary that falls on top of her. She is unharmed and the Sisters are more concerned with the state of the statue than the welfare of the little girl.

Eighteen years later and Benedetta (played by Virginie Efira) is doing her best to be a good Bride of Christ. She keeps seeing visions of Jesus Christ. No one seems to really believe her at first, or if they do, they suppress the sin of envy within.

When a woman runs into the abby to escape her abusive father, Benedetta’s father pays for the young woman to stay in the abby and commit her life to the Church. Under Benedetta’s guidance, Bartholomea (played by Daphne Patakia) just seems to accept convent life for the most part. Eventually neither woman can resist their mutual lust and become lovers.

Amidst all this, Benedetta’s visions continue, and she develops stigmata, a true sign of sainthood.

A Bishop (played by Lambert WIlson) comes to the town and Benedetta is accused of heresy and depraved acts as a blazing red comet portends ill omens.

Benedetta is a well-made period piece consisting of more art and historical significance than 'sploitation and sex. The film runs a little long, and some parts could have been omitted or at least trimmed down. It is a good movie overall, but if you’re looking for pure titillation it’s a long wait. However, what is there is beautiful and very hot.

The scenes where the lust builds between the two leads are framed through thin fabrics, so while everything is hidden, truly nothing is hidden. As Benedetta sleeps, enraptured by a vision, Barthalomea reaches into the curtain dividing them, and cups the nun’s naked breast. When they finally do consummate, it begins with Benedetta’s nightgown over her face, but soon that is shed and she and Bartholomea can kiss and touch and truly indulge in their passions.

There was a good deal of subtle artistic metaphors. The red comet meaning either doom or a blessing, the red blood of stigmata, even the Bishop rolls up to the city decked out in a red carriage.

I was left a little cold about Benedetta’s motivations. I found them cloudy and unclear. Did she truly want to be believed to be having visions? Was this a Gone Girl situation? Did she want status and power? To what ends? To be the most popular girl in the abby? If there were any answers to my questions, they were murky.

This is not your typical nunsploitation film, and it’s not porn or satire. It’s an artsy, restrained Verhoeven work that seems to come from a place of reverence, but also a bit of indulgence. It’s based off a true story, but the truth has been dramatisized for the consumption of the masses.

Best Moment: When Benedetta and Bartholomea finally have sex.

Worst Moment: Some scenes really dragged.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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