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Once you get past the nun-on-nun action there are plenty of things to enjoy in Paul Verhoeven’s latest, but by that point the picture has already almost reached its conclusion.

Paul Verhoeven has never been a very subtle director, so if you hand him a story about medieval lesbian nuns you more or less know what you'll get. Thus is the case with Benedetta, a film that for large parts sets out to shock and in the process pushes the most intriguing parts of the story to the background.

Verhoeven loves to linger on the naked body of lead actress Virginie Efira and her lover, and in a particularly salacious scene even a carved figurine of the Mother Mary is used in a sex scene. Not until the movie's third act is the director truly interested in the cunning power grab of the protagonist, when finally a worthy adversary walks onto the scene: a bratty papal nuncio played with villainous vigour by Lambert Wilson.

Here, 90 minutes in, Benedetta finally becomes a picture worth investing your time in, as it lays bare the hypocrisy of religion, the paternalistic insolence of Catholicism and the lengths easily fooled people will go to in order to keep a delusion alive.

It almost seems a shame that the viewer first has to wade through scene upon scene of badly written softcore nun-on-nun action to get to this point.

release: 2021

director: Paul Verhoeven

starring: Virginie Efira, Daphné Patakia, Charlotte Rampling, Lambert Wilson


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