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Movies & TV

12th Apr 2022

Benedetta is exactly the kind of movie that would’ve been banned in Ireland 30 years ago

Rory Cashin

The director of Basic Instinct and Showgirls is tackling religion…

If you need a shorthand reminder of just how far Ireland has come along – both culturally and just in terms of being somewhat sounder – look no further than the release of Benedetta in Irish cinemas.

Directed and co-written by Paul Verhoeven, a man who never met a sex scene or an act of violence that couldn’t be ramped up to eleven – he is the man behind Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, and the original (and great) versions of RoboCop and Total Recall – it sees him tackling a controversy-filled story set within the confines of religion.

Not to spoil anything, but Jesus Christ himself appears throughout the movie, and always represented as a figure to be lusted after. At one point, he is shown completely naked and is seducing the movie’s leading character, Benedetta Carlini (a magnificent Virginie Efira), who also happens to be having a love affair with another nun in her convent (Daphne Patakia).

To think, in 1996, Showgirls was banned in Ireland because the movie contained the sentence “Jesus Fucking Christ”, it truly is a testament to just how much we’ve progressed.

Which isn’t to say the same thing applies to everywhere else in the world…

It also shows how much Verhoeven has progressed as a filmmaker, as he is less likely to turn to his sledgehammer-esque use of metaphor, having become adept at using the scalpel instead.

While the (based on a true) story is set within the walls of a 17th century Tuscany abbey, the ramifications of the actions and reactions within this movie are still massively prevalent today. The initial reaction to Benedetta’s erotic visions of Jesus have her branded as a lunatic and/or heretic, while her relationship with her fellow nun also finds her being judged for sapphism.

And while these might sound like heavy, potentially depressing topics to attempt to tackle, Verhoeven does it all with a cheeky glint in his eye, never straying too far from a scathing one-liner to assist in keeping the tone of the movie in line with his ideologies.

Not judging anyone’s faith or sexuality, Verhoeven presents Benedetta’s story from her perspective as if it were, well, gospel, but maintains that underlying playfulness, dropping it only when her story is met with horror and at times violence from those around her.

As is nearly always the case with Verhoeven’s work, it is consistently clever, entertaining and, yes, erotic, filled with great performances, but there is a lot of heart and emotion at the centre of this movie. He’s 83 years old, but Verhoeven proves you’re never too old to continue to “grow up”.

But it also features a naked sexy Jesus, so thankfully Verhoeven hasn’t fully given up on trying to shock us yet, either.

Benedetta arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 15 April.


Clip via IFC Films & Steve Kopian

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