2:31 p.m., July 8, 2021, modified at 2:41 p.m., July 8, 2021
It’s (almost) always the same with Verhoeven. With each film, the Dutch filmmaker challenges, provokes and above all divides audiences and critics. And even more when it is under the eyes of the whole world as at the Cannes Film Festival, where his latest born is officially presented on Friday at the same time as it is released in theaters. His Benedetta, inspired by the true story of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th century nun in Tuscany who suffered from the plague, who receives the stigmata of Christ and falls in love with a young girl from her convent. With Virginie Efira in the title role, who discovers the pleasure at least as much as the power of her faith… At JDD, we are divided.
FOR: iconoclastic, fun and political
Paul Verhoeven returns with a new film that brings together his three favorite ingredients: sex, violence and religion. At 82, he shows that he has not lost his hand with this story in which his iconoclastic spirit flourishes to virulently denounce the hypocrisy and corruption of the Church, while addressing fascinating themes such as the mysticism, faith, doubt, access to beatitude through suffering, emancipation, desire, prohibition, the quest for power, female homosexuality in an era that does not tolerate it, the hunt for witches, sacrifice. Prophetess or storyteller, the mystery hangs over the complex heroine embodied with density and ambiguity by Virginie Efira, facing stunning supporting roles (Charlotte Rampling and Lambert Wilson in the lead).
This time, Verhoeven approaches eroticism in a playful and light way, not provocative. He allows himself outrageous dreamlike sequences, even grotesque, with a fantasy and an assumed humor. He puts the spectator in the position of the voyeur for an eminently political, daring and offbeat film, which assumes its excesses. Sublimated by the photography of Jeanne Lapoirie, which lit with natural light and candle light, and enveloped by captivating sacred music (Igor Stravinsky, Hildegarde de Bingen). You too, succumb to temptation! SB
Read also – Paul Verhoeven at JDD: “Most of the time, I shocked without being premeditated”
CONS: ridiculous, libidinous and dusty
Lovers of Name of the Rose, go your way. Paul Verhoeven takes us on a journey through 17th century Italy, but everything sounds false or anachronistic, whether it is the scenery of the small town of Pescia or the physique of the protagonists and their way of expressing themselves. If the Dutch filmmaker offers a not uninteresting light on the politico-religious context and the fate of women at that time, he lets himself be overwhelmed once again by his obsessions and signs a film of old libidinous: the love scenes, always theatrical but never sensual, between Virginie Efira and her mistress Daphné Patakia lend themselves to laughter rather than excitement as they seem borrowed and knitted by a look too contemporary to be fair.
The scene with a wooden statuette of a virgin transformed into a dildo for the occasion is a great moment of ridicule! Not having much to play, comedians tend to do tons of it, with the exception of Charlotte Rampling who brings her detached eye to a stern Mother Superior. They do not convey any emotion, in a very winded and dusty staging. No miracle! BT
By Paul Verhoeven, with Virginie Efira, Daphné Patakia, Charlotte Rampling and Lambert Wilson. 2h11. Exit Friday.