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Lesbian Nuns Behaving Badly in “Benedetta,” a New Film From the Director of Cult-Classic “Showgirls”

by Jenni Miller


Co-written and directed by Paul Verhoeven 

Out December 3

Over the course of his career, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven has transitioned from sneered-at trash master to auteur, with “guilty pleasure” films like RoboCop, Total Recall, Showgirls, and even Starship Troopers garnering him reconsideration by cinephiles as a visionary of subversion. In 2008, he published a theological text, Jesus of Nazareth. So, it seems inevitable that he would eventually make a movie about horny nuns.

Inspired by Judith C. Brown’s biography Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, Benedetta is exactly what you’d expect. Sister Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) has baroque visions of Jesus, bleeds copiously from stigmata wounds, and succumbs to the wiles of a gorgeous neophyte named Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) who fingers Benedetta’s bum during services. As Benedetta gains power at the convent, the sisters begin to suspect she’s full of BS, especially the pragmatic abbess (Charlotte Rampling). The plot thickens with political intrigue and allusions that may be lost on viewers lacking historical context—but let’s face it, we’re really here to see Benedetta and Bartolomea ditch their nuns’ habits and pick up some bad ones. When it comes to nunsploitation, Benedetta’s blasphemy falls somewhere between Black Narcissus (1947) and The Devils (1971). And its New York premiere even drew protestors—in this day and age, that’s nothing to sniff at. jenni miller


Header photo courtesy of IFC Films

This review originally appeared in BUST’s Winter 2021/2022 print edition. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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