'Benedetta', the plague of the inquisition

“If the love you have for me, / My God, is like the one I have for you; / tell me: where do I stop? / or you, what are you stopping at? ”, wrote Santa Teresa de Jesús in the poem Colloquium of love. With the arrival in the Spanish rooms of Benedetta, controversial film by Paul Verhoeven based on the novel by Judith C. Brown, Shameful affections. Sister Benedetta: between saint and lesbian, published in 1989, about of a royal nun of the early seventeenth century, the object of an inquisitorial process, the verses of Spanish mysticism resound again because of desire and delirium, joy and passion, carnality and submission, physicality and spirituality, visions and (supposed) miracles are you fill both lives.

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There are also Spanish audiovisual works around there such as Extramuros, by Miguel Picazo, based on the novel by Jesús Fernández-Santos, the series Teresa de Jesús, by Josefina Molina, or Ray Loriga’s approach in Teresa: the body of Christ, with whom she has so much to do Benedetta, despite their emphatic differences stylistic and tone characteristics, in his portrait of the challenge to power, that of the work itself and that of its characters, in times of various inquisitions. Because, beyond the controversy around sex and the deep eroticism of Verhoeven’s bet, his story speaks above all of corruption. Perhaps spiritual, but above all moral and ecclesial; of adulterated powers; of public trials much more dangerous than the sins of their accused; of crimes with the excuse of faith and salvation.

Medievalism and its blood, its bonfires of destruction, can still survive in a society like the current one, where there is also a plague unfortunately similar to the one in the movie, which ends lives by contagion while the authority washes its hands and the mass of the people ally with those who are most convenient at all times.

Of course in Benedetta there is depravity, sacrilege and provocation. But also desire, passion and love, always based on the ecstasy of the body. And Verhoeven, specialist in the eroticism of fornice, with the look that is assumed to be the author of Basic Instinct and Showgirls, represents him moving away of realism in attitudes and even in physics. Virginie Efira, with an imposing interpretive work, very demanding in all aspects, appears with a contemporary look to challenge the power of the past and perhaps also that of the present. The unreality of makeup and hairdressing is part of Verhoeven’s lavish show, but perhaps the best of Benedetta is in the final part, that of the palpable and metaphorical bonfires, rather than in the central nucleus, that of voluptuousness and copulation.


Address: Paul Verhoeven.

Performers: Virginie Efira, Lambert Wilson, Daphne Patakia, Charlotte Rampling.

Genre: drama. France, 2021.

Duration: 131 minutes.

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