Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to controversy. With Low Instincts – 54% changed Sharon Stone’s career forever, updating what it meant to be a femme fatale in film, while with Elle: Abuse and Seduction – 90% touched on the subject of rape in a very peculiar way that could only be interpreted well with someone like Isabelle Huppert at the helm. The director is used to, and enjoys very much, telling stories that test the public’s morale. In that sense, his work is seen from the extremes; either as someone who likes to provoke just because he can or be perceived as a storyteller who forces the audience to face their own hypocrisy.
Keep reading: Cannes 2021: Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta sparks controversy over lesbian sex between nuns
During the most recent edition of Cannes, Verhoeven released Benedetta – 85%, a film based on the book Immodest Acts from Judith C. Brown. A Festival of this caliber always receives these types of tapes even if they cause a scandal, and that is exactly what happened. The specialized critics reviewed it with more or less good ratings, but the audience was the one that went crazy for showing scenes of lesbian sex between two nuns. At the time, the director commented on how surprised he is that people continue to react badly to such stories.
Beyond homophobia, which unfortunately is still far from disappearing, the mixture with the religious world is what truly makes Benedetta an easy target for conservatives. According to IndieWire, protesters gathered to boycott the premiere of the film starring Virginie Efira. This happened at the Licoln Center where the New York Film Festival and some attendees took to Twitter with images:
Catholic protesters highly offended by the lesbian nuns in Benedetta and took their protest outside the New York Festival and it’s mmm so crazy.
Catholic protestors highly offended by the lesbian nuns in BENEDETTA and have taken to protesting outside NYFF & its uhhhhm wild pic.twitter.com/M5qUUDV5Af
– Inglorious Baguettes🖤 (@morebaguettes) September 26, 2021
Lots of crazy people protesting Benedetta outside Alice Tully Hall. I bought my ticket as soon as I heard that it is a sexy nun movie. I can not wait.
Bunch of loonies protesting BENEDETTA outside Alice Tully Hall now. Bought my tix as soon as I heard it’s a sexy nun movie — can’t wait. 😂 # NYFF59 pic.twitter.com/0TvlL6SHAk
– Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) September 26, 2021
With banners calling for “The End of Blasphemy” and questioning “Why the endless insults against Jesus?”, The group of protesters was also accompanied by drums and bagpipes to attract attention. Paul verhoeven confirmed to IndieWire that this was not a publicity stunt and the Protestants are now known to be part of a group called America Needs Fatima that seeks to promote conservative traditions such as the classic heterosexual family.
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The same source also reveals that the group began to pray and sing Aves Marías using megaphones in what is the first religious protest in the New York Film Festival since the premiere of Dogma – 67%, directed by Kevin Smith, in 1999. Shortly before the premiere, while everyone was in the room waiting, Dennis Lim (event programmer) asked the audience how many were Catholics and thanked the protest:
Verhoeven does not provoke without purpose.
Although neither the director nor the cast could be present for the premiere, the screenwriter David Birke did, and he took the opportunity to clarify that Benedetta’s story is not a fiction invented to call attention to the silly. The writer Judith C. Brown is a historian who specializes in analyzing sexuality and who took a long time to discover and uncover this fact for her book which was adapted by Birke and Verhoeven. Benedetta Carlini In truth, he existed and there are files on his passage through the convent, his supposed demonic visions, his relationship with another nun and his eventual trial.
Since its release, the film has sparked debate about whether the director takes advantage of a true story to show explicit sex scenes or whether it is truly a reality worth telling without censorship. When we talk about religion, it is not uncommon for the public to be scared, because it is a morality that allows them to face the world, and perceiving it as fragile becomes uncomfortable and terrifying for them. On the other hand there is the issue of feminism and sexual liberation. Although these types of stories deserve to be told, it is true that there seems to be an obsession today to show lesbian romances in period tapes, and many feminist groups consider that they are really just an excuse to show them as an object of desire, not unlike the tapes pornographic. Either way, Benedetta it is attracting attention and that is all it takes to make the public decide to see it.
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