Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta is a weirdly compelling account of a mystic nun

The profession of veteran Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven would possibly appear to have taken an unlikely flip with Benedetta, his shaky however weirdly compelling account of a mystic nun in Seventeenth-century Italy. Or possibly not. The director of Primary Intuition amongst different sizzling potatoes as soon as wrote a secular biography of Jesus. Past that, his signature themes of intercourse, energy and self-realisation are all in play. You would possibly even marvel how a lot of himself Verhoeven sees within the real-life Benedetta Carlini, portrayed right here coming into a Tuscan convent on the age of eight. “Intelligence will be harmful,” the novice is informed, a warning that echoes into maturity. As performed by Virginie Efira, the grownup Benedetta is quickly reporting stigmata. For the religious film-lover, the true miracle is perhaps the scowl of Charlotte Rampling as an unconvinced Mom Superior.

On one stage then, Benedetta is a looking examination of religion. On one other, a knives-out office drama. On a 3rd — nicely, Verhoeven followers might nod knowingly on discovering the director drawn to a narrative that involves centre on convent lesbianism. In actual fact, Carlini’s intercourse life registers as greater than mere mischief from the film-maker, a cosmopolitan affront to what the film rails in opposition to because the soiled enterprise of non secular piety. It might solely be extra deeply Paul Verhoeven if RoboCop strode in to take the veil.

★★★☆☆

In UK cinemas from April 15

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