The lesbian nun and the sex scene that scandalize in Cannes

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Do not say scandal, say it Paul Verhoeven. The director knows what a good controversy is, how can the head of films not know? What Basic Instinct O Showgirls. At 82, Verhoeven continues with his provocative, iconoclastic and irreverent spirit as on the first day. His latest film proves it, Benedetta, which has been presented at the Cannes film festival, where it was one of the most anticipated films of the entire official section.

It was because we all knew that scandal would come with it, or at least a little agitation, something that comes in handy in these moments of cultural hegemony where so many films resemble each other. Cannes has reserved a luxurious place for him to present this adaptation of a novel by Judith C. Brown whose title makes it clear: Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy (Studies in the History of Sexuality). Well that, in Benedetta what we see is the story of a 17th century novice nun who joins an Italian convent and begins a love affair with another woman.

And here Verhoeven gets playful and provocative. And we all fall for its charm. Starting with Cannes, which is more than aware that the film was going to make rivers of ink flow and cause headlines like the one that heads this chronicle. As shown in the press dossier that was made available to journalists and in which the director was asked about a scene (watch out for a spoiler) in which the protagonist masturbates with a statuette of the Virgin Mary. With that information we were all waiting for what we were going to find.

For the curious. Yes. The scene in question exists, the protagonist builds a dildo with a figurine of the Virgin and it is one of the irreverent moments that good old Verhoeven gives us, who has a great time and we with him. In the dossier he said about this moment that he wanted to show how an object can mean something religious or something that has no value, and that when the protagonist “lets herself go on her love journey”, the object no longer has any value. In the end, in this figurine the metaphor of the entire film is found for him: “Let’s ignore the rules and taboos, let’s do what we want.”

But that’s just a taste of Verhoeven’s ability to provoke. The press pass of Benedetta in Cannes it became one of Sitges, and although there were quite a few desertions, the rest of the room applauded each boutade with applause and laughter. The director has made a Showgirls period that is not taken seriously at any time and that what he wants is to focus on the danger of sexual repression and religious fundamentalisms. She does it with a tone that is sometimes close to parody in which she laughs at the faith dogmas of religion -Benedetta also has sexual fantasies with her husband, Jesus Christ-. An ending with a plague pandemic included in which evil is brought by men and religion and the only way to escape is a revolution from below is also drawn from the sleeve.

Benedetta it is a ludic and playful enjoyment. Work of someone who jumps without a net in every movie. It will divide, scandalize and talk about it. And with it we will see if we have come a long way in 60 years, since that Golden palm a Viridiana that provoked the wrath of the Vatican and that caused the Franco regime to persecute the film and want to burn its copies as they wanted to burn the lesbian nun whom he gives life with a mammoth delivery a sensational Virginie Efira.

Verhoeven has done it again. Everyone talks about his movie, about him, about the dildo carved in the figure of the Virgin and in all the scenes with which he challenges the timid. Little space has been left to talk about other titles in competition such as Languages, portrait of abortion in Chad that has moved the chairman of the jury Spike Lee and with which Mahamat-Saleh Haroun enter the prize pool; or The worst person in the world, a surprise in the form of a modern and current romantic comedy with which Joaquim Trier confirms that it can be light and even fun. A portrait of modern women in 12 chapters (plus a prologue and an epilogue) that drew laughter and is lost in its dramatic final moments. They were all engulfed by the nun Benedetta and by Verhoeven, who shows that vitality is not a matter of age.