Cannes 74: ‘Benedetta’ Review
Nobody expects the French inquisition.
Have you ever tried to download a movie but instead got its porn caricature? Well, meet the XXX cheap parody of Black Narcissus. There was a lot of hype before the Cannes screening of Paul Verhoeven’s new film. Which hurts even more, as from the very beginning of Benedetta we are confronted with a disappointing reality: an insipid, stereotypical medieval soundtrack; sloppy editing; shiny fabric costumes; anonymous bright cinematography… this looks like straight-to-DVD trash.
Sure, Verhoeven has had his hits, but why should we assume that he would be the ideal artist for a religious film questioning faith and dogmas? Dealing with badass robots, macho mutants, and sexy strippers is one thing, and doesn’t really qualify him to recount the controversial figure of Benedetta Carlini, lesbian nun and controversial Catholic personality. It is thus not surprising to see how the random gory action sequences work best over the dramatic ones. Physical strength emerges over feelings, which are blandly portrayed on screen with the sexual tension of a trashy reality show and the romanticism of a stag do. At the press screening, the darkness of the theatre was sliced by at least one journalist, who couldn’t resist the impulse of snapping a couple shots during the several naked scenes (for his article, I’m sure).
When dealing with nuns and lust, it would be impossible not to think about the aforementioned Black Narcissus. But while the Archers’ film introspectively explores the sexual restraints of sisterhood, Benedetta is only superficially interested in the psychology, and rather chases cheap laughs (a refined gag on farting), sometimes getting closer to Sister Act. One memorable scene is worth mentioning, involving poorly CGI’ed snakes assaulting Benedetta, getting slaughtered by samurai French Jesus, who saves the day a la Kill Bill. A misuse of blasphemy for the petty sake of being controversial, and a missed opportunity on all fronts. The real blasphemy is having this film in Cannes' competition.