Banned in Russia and labeled “blasphemous”. This is ‘Benedetta’, the controversial film based on real events

Paul Verhoeven gets behind the scenes of the film about a mystical and lesbian nun. Virginie Efira stars in the feature film, which hits theaters this Friday, October 1.

A mystical and lesbian nun. That is the protagonist of Benedetta, the new film from the provocative filmmaker of Basic instinct (1992) Paul Verhoeven. The film, starring Virginie Efira, hits Spanish cinemas this Friday, October 1st, after passing through the Cannes Film Festival and that of Saint Sebastian. And, unsurprisingly, the movie, which is based on real events, has already sparked protests by conservative Christian groups.


Benedetta it is based on a true story, although Verhoeven has fictionalized some elements of the film in favor of the film’s narrative. Benedetta Carlini was a woman born in 1591 who grew up in a middle class Italian family. At an early age he entered the Convent of the Mother of God on Pescia (Italy) to become a nun.

At the age of 30, she was named abbess and began to have visions of men who wanted to kill her. Her companions feared that she was possessed by the devil and her story reached Rome. By then the papacy wanted to silence mystics who showed signs of a spirituality not in accordance with established religious customs.

When the higher echelons of the Catholic Church visited the Benedetta convent, they discovered that it was maintaining a lesbian relationship with another of the nuns: Bartolomea. The latter testified stating that they had had sexual intercourse when Benedetta was possessed by the spirit of a demon named Splenditello. Due to these practices, Benedetta was imprisoned, removed from office as abbess, and placed under surveillance until she died in 1661. Bartolomea died a year before her.


For the film, Verhoeven has taken as a basis the book written by the historian Judith C. Brown titled Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy. However, and as we have already told you, the filmmaker has taken certain liberties. In the film, for example, a wooden figure of the Virgin Mary is transformed into a dildo, which is used by the leading couple.

This, added to other sexual encounters between Benedetta and Bartolomea – played in the film by Daphne Patakia-, has caused the anger of the most catholic groups. For example, the news agency based in Lima (Peru) ACI Press has started a signature collection for “stop broadcasting” from Verhoeven’s film, which is branded as “blasphemous”.

On Russia, as reported by the agency TASS, the film has been banned by the Ministry of Culture for its “provocative content” And, although its premiere was scheduled for October 7, it has been denied a distribution license.

Benedetta was recently screened in the New York Film Festival and a group of Catholics protested against the film. Messages such as: “Stop the blasphemy now!”, “Why the endless insults to Jesus?”, “We vehemently protested the blasphemous film Benedetta, which insults the sanctity of Catholic nuns “, “defamation is not freedom of expression”, “stop offending God” and “I am a Catholic, stop attacking my faith”.


During our visit to the San Sebastián Film Festival, a contest in which Benedetta was part of the section Perlak, we spoke with its leading actress. Efira had this to say about whether she was afraid of the criticism the film might receive by accepting the role: “Criticism can come, but this is not something negative, it is something that is part of the job and I like the risk, playing with those borders “.

Virginie Efira, Paul Verhoeven’s controversial lesbian nun in ‘Benedetta’: “Criticism is part of the job and I like risk”

Verhoeven, for his part, spoke about the criticism at the Cannes Film Festival. “You can’t change history. You can’t change the things that have happened. And I’ve based it on the things that happened.”, counted in Variety. “So, I think the word ‘blasphemy’ in this case is stupid.”.