Any concerns that Jesus Christ wouldn’t be decapitating snakes in Benedetta can firmly be put to bed. There’s a lot of J.C. in the trailer for Benedetta, and all of it is heavenly.
The latest from Paul Verhoeven, the gonzo mastermind director behind Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, and RoboCop, Benedetta sees him turn his hyper-violent and hypersexual inclinations toward a 17th-century nunnery. Among the highest-profile nunsploitation films in recent memory, Benedetta is also Verhoeven’s first since 2016’s Elle.
Based on Judith C. Brown’s book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, the film follows the real-life story of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century nun who has an affair with another nun at the convent. Oh, Benedetta also suffers from explicitly violent and erotic visions, which, we presume, is where Jesus comes in to slay some serpents.
Not everyone is as excited for Benedetta as we are. Galvanized by [gasp] a movie about lesbian nuns, some true believers took to protesting the film—probably to the delight of its maker. But Verhoeven had already shut down any controversies surrounding the film earlier that summer. He said:
Don’t forget, in general, people, when they have sex, they take their clothes off, so I’m stunned basically by the fact that we don’t want to look at the reality of life. Why this puritanism has been introduced—it is in my opinion wrong.
I don’t really understand how you can really blaspheme about something that happened, even in 1625. You cannot change history, you cannot change things that happened, and I based it on the things that happened. So I think the word blasphemy in this case is stupid.
Benedetta premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival and later played at the New York Film Festival, where, writing for the A.V. Club, Vikram Murthi saw the picture. Murthi writes that while the film doesn’t “rank among this subversive director’s best, like RoboCop, Starship Troopers, or his recent Elle,” it’s still classic Verhoeven.
“Anyone worried that Verhoeven has gone stuffy and austere can relax,” writes Murthi. “Benedetta’s stately appearance quickly gives way to his exaggerated, sexualized style.”
Benedetta opens in theaters on December 3 and will be available on VOD on December 21.