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The stars are aligned and Paul Verhoeven is making a nunsploitation movie

Verhoeven on the set of Elle. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
Verhoeven on the set of Elle. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

The last time Paul Verhoeven made a comeback—with the caustic Dutch resistance thriller Black Bookaudiences had to wait a decade for him to make another feature. But the success of last year’s superb Elle seems to have ensured that one of our greatest living filmmakers won’t have to struggle to get his next project off the ground. And it appears that, having turned the rape-revenge thriller into a corrosive critique of social mores with Elle, the Dutch filmmaker has set his sights on another staple of ‘70s Euro sleaze: nunsploitation.

Earlier today, Elle producer Saïd Ben Saïd announced that Verhoeven’s next project would be Blessed Virgin, with Belgian actress Virginie Efira—who played Rebecca, the neighbor’s wife, in Elle—in the lead role. (You can see the NSFW announcement from Ben Saïd’s SBS production company here.) Like Elle, Blessed Virgin will be a French-language production, and is currently financing to begin filming in the fall.

Admittedly, Blessed Virgin has a better scholarly pedigree that its forebears in convent erotica: it’s an adaption of Immodest Acts: The Life Of A Lesbian Nun In Renaissance Italy, historian Judith C. Brown’s very well-regarded 1986 book about Sister Benedetta Carlini, a 17th century mystic whose claims of visions led to an investigation by the Church that uncovered her sexual relationship with another nun. Carlini defended herself by claiming she had been possessed by a male spirit, and the extensive surviving documentation of her life and trial have provided historians with a rare window into both sexuality and religious practice in the late Renaissance.

The kicker is that Blessed Virgin is being scripted by Verhoeven’s Dutch screenwriter, Gerard Soeteman, who collaborated with the director on such classics and cult favorites as Soldier Of Orange, The Fourth Man, Turkish Delight, and most recently on Black Book. We can’t wait to see what they cook up.

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