BENEDETTA (2021)

(Cinemas) BENEDETTA, the latest from the always inventive and thrilling filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, is based on the true story detailed in Judith C. Brown’s text IMMODEST ACTS: THE LIFE OF A LESBIAN NUN IN RENAISSANCE ITALY. Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) was pledged to the church by her rich family after a very troubled birth. Benedetta felt that Jesus spoke to her from a young age, and then when she was a youth, her parents paid for her to stay at a nunnery, which according to the film was a slightly disillusioning experience, partially because of the very brusque, practical abbesse Soeur Felicita (the always exceptional Charlotte Rampling) at least until — later in life — a young Bartolomea (a wide-eyed Daphne Patakia) stumbles into the nunnery and Benedetta’s life, chased by herd of sheep and her abusive and rapey father. Benedetta convinces her parents to pay for her to stay there, and she and Bartolomea spiral into a very complicated, charged relationship, with severely uneven power dynamics on both sides.

Apologies for yet another ‘hey I saw an advance screening of this film’ post, but I saw an advance screening of this film a few weeks ago, and it’s the first film I’ve seen in some time to have protestors castigating those walking through the Music Box doors. (Heads-up: I didn’t capture this footage and this isn’t my account.)

The screening was at least two-thirds populated and, if you can attend a nearby screening, are vaxxed, and are comfortable with it, I would suggest attending. The film looks great — although two loud film nerds of a certain type directly behind me complained about the ‘shit CGI’ without realizing that’s part of Verhoeven’s cartoonish violence schtick — but, given the nature of the material, you wouldn’t think that this film is funny, but it is. It’s Verhoeven — it’s irreverent, but it comes from a place of wanting better from people and society. Always has been, hopefully always will be. There’s a purpose behind his cutting humor beyond sugar-coating some rough moments and being clever; it helps to provide insight and flesh out the characters. Consequently, hearing how people laugh and respond to the material in a crowd situation is surprisingly enlightening, although I will note that at least a good third of the laughs were of the nervous kind.

Yes, Verhoeven did take certain liberties — I won’t mention what they are as one is pretty important, one could say the crux of the film — so there is definitely some fictional sensationalism, but ultimately this is a human drama, one which showcases how very little has changed over hundreds of years.