Benedetta Review

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Penoos Aras
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  • 4.5/5

Benedetta: A biopic of Benedetta Carlini, a mystical Italian nun and supposed stigmatic in 17th century Tuscany, adapted from Judith Brown’s 1986 biography Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy. The young Benedetta is being taken by her family to Pescia to become a nun. When they stop at a roadside altar to pray, a group of bandits arrive and try to steal Benedetta's mother's necklace. Benedetta warns them that she speaks with the Virgin Mary, who will punish them. A bird, which Benedetta says is the spirit of Mary,scores a scat direct hit in the bandit leader's eye, he gives back the necklace. At the Convent in Pescia, Abbess Felicita (Charlotte Rampling) makes it clear that Benedetta's entry is transactional demanding a higher dowry. Benedetta is soon off on her adventures, surviving when a statue of the Virgin Mary falls on her. Eighteen years later Benedetta (Virginie Efira) is transported into raptures as she sees visions of Jesus, he saves her from serpents, meets her in fields, she embraces him on his cross. In the real world she develops stigmata. There is a question over their provenance but Felicita's skepticism is overruled by Prvoost Cecchi an ambitious cleric/bureaucrat who sees this as an opportunity to make Pesci a pilgrimage town with himself as bishop. The drama is fraught with Bedetta's love for a novice, Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) and power struggles both within the Convent and between the Nuns and the male power structures which they are subservient to. Very much an adult film, both in how the love story evolves and in the tortures carried out by the Inquisition when they arrive. Many disturbing scenes which are not for the squeamish or the faint of heart, the film is also permeated with "blasphemies". Comets appear in the skies and the Black Death stalks the land as the narrative unfolds. A disconcerting yet engaging film with great performances from Efira, Rampling, Patakia and Olivier Rabourdin as the duplicitous Cecchi. Directed/Written by Paul Verhoven. 8/10.

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