Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven has decried critics calling his lesbian nun erotica “blasphemy”, saying such criticisms are “stupid”.
Benedetta is the Dutch filmmaker’s first movie in five years and stars Academy Award nominee Charlotte Ramplin, Virginie Efira and Daphne Patakia. The film premiered at Cannes over the weekend and has caused uproar across the internet. Inspired by true events, the thriller focuses on the story of an erotic lesbian affair between nuns in 17th century Italy as plague ravages the land.
The French-language film features sexually charged moments between nuns, torture and a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary being used as a sex toy.
While the film has been positively received widely, some critics appeared to take issue with some of Benedetta‘s scenes, even going so far as to call the film “blasphemous”.
Comingsoon.net said the scene where the protagonists “turn a wooden Holy Mary statue into a sex toy to give each other pleasure” “results in just free blasphemy”. Indiewire stated the film is a “generally blasphemous” or “perhaps just humanistic” “attitude toward the dogmas of the Catholic Church”.
Variety said Benedetta “intends to offend” and suggested Verhoeven chose to tell the story of the nun lovers for its “kink”.
But Verhoeven has bristled at the suggestion Benedetta is in any way blasphemous. He told reporters at the Cannes film festival that he had nothing to be ashamed of because the events were based on true events.
“I don’t understand really how you can be blasphemous about something that happened,” Verhoeven said. “Even if it’s in 1625, it’s true, mostly. Of course, we changed a little bit.”
He continued: “You cannot talk about blasphemy about something that happened 4, 500 years ago. I think that’s wrong.”
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) July 13, 2021
Verhoeven argued that people “cannot change history”, and he based Benedetta “on things that happened in the past”.
“So I think the word blasphemy, in this case, is stupid,” the 82-year-old filmmaker told reporters.
Verhoeven based Benedetta on Judith C Brown’s nonfiction novel Immodest Acts – The Life of Lesbian Nuns in Renaissance Italy.
However, many people online have heaped praise on the allegedly ‘blasphemous’ movie. The New York Times reported that the “audience at the Cannes press screening applauded the film’s blasphemous nerve”.
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) July 9, 2021
BENEDETTA (Verhoeven): CHAOTIC Sensual Cinema. Its bawdiness invigorates what could’ve been another dour, holier-than-thou take on religious history, and I’m all for defiant nuns putting the Church in its place. Why shouldn’t Catholicism get its own SHOWGIRLS? pic.twitter.com/ci4DBguxhG
— Isabel Sandoval (@Isabelvsandoval) July 10, 2021
BENEDETTA: Absolute Verhoeven. Erotic, violent, religiously sinful and absurdist. You have never seen a movie quite like this one. It’s a feminist take on Christ. If Virginie Efira doesn’t win Best Actress then there is no God. #Cannes2021
— Jordan Ruimy (@mrRuimy) July 9, 2021
Many people wrote on social media that they are eagerly awaiting a link for Benedetta so they can enjoy its ‘blasphemy’.
me and the other lesbians chanting to bring about the benedetta link pic.twitter.com/0ZJ7ZRX4aC
— (@moonflowerxz) July 10, 2021
Praying I get to see Benedetta soon pic.twitter.com/fokdHnsiwJ
— Amy Van Gar (@amyvangar) July 10, 2021