Benedetta

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Benedetta Movie Poster Image
Graphic French "nunsploitation" drama has sex, gore.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 131 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Raises many interesting questions about faith and belief, including whether suffering is the correct path to faith and what place pleasure might have. Explores where faith meets untruth, and what happens then. These themes are fairly slippery, moving in and around the exploitation scenes, and nothing is clearly answered, but a lot is brought up.

Positive Role Models

No one here is admirable; even the most pious nuns have their secret dark sides.

Diverse Representations

Revolves around trio of powerful, interesting women. They have a sexual relationship, though it's not necessarily a positive or progressive depiction of a healthy emotional relationship -- more of a way to titillate and turn on the "male gaze." A character uses phrase "haggle like a Jew" in a negative way.

Violence

Woman is attacked by band of villains and shot with an arrow through her hand. Attempted rape. Jesus saves her with a sword, slashing and slicing, chopping off heads and limbs; lots of blood spurts. Man slices a woman's breast. Woman tortured with horrifying gynecological device; screaming in agony. Character attacked by snakes; Jesus slays them with a sword, with blood spurts. Character experiences stigmata, with bleeding hands, feet, and forehead. Characters flagellate themselves with leather whips; bleeding back wounds. Person jumps from tall building, crashes on ground; blood puddle shown. Vomiting blood. Characters tied to flaming stake; one burns in flames. Stabbing, with blood spurts. A young woman claims to be abused both physically and sexually by her father and her brothers, saying "he'll kill me"; he grabs her by her dress with a wooden hook. A character is forced to immerse her hand in boiling water; burned arm shown. Bruise on character's leg. Woman with cancerous breast (covered in red). Dead bodies. A large statue falls on a young girl, nearly crushing her. Character screaming in pain. Character shows a wooden finger, explaining that her real one was cut off. Jesus hangs on cross, bloody wounds. Violent dialogue. Black Plague, with people dying in the streets, sores and boils, etc.

Sex

Several scenes of full-frontal female nudity, some fairly lengthy. Graphic sex scenes, with oral sex, thrusting with a sex toy, moaning, climaxing. A character masturbates while looking at a woman's naked breasts. Kissing. Fondling. One character grabs another's bottom. Sex-related dialogue. Young girl kisses a statue's naked stone breast. Character removes Jesus' loincloth while he's hanging on cross, but nothing sensitive is seen (he seems to have "tucked" his penis). Bared breast.

Language

English subtitle version includes sporadic appearance of "s--t," "hell," "damn," "balls," "pr--k," "idiot," "whore," "slut." Brief visual fart joke.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine mentioned. Characters drink socially, briefly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Benedetta is director Paul Verhoeven's French-language drama about a forbidden relationship and other troubles in a 17th century convent. Both sex and gore are extreme. The long list of intensely violent scenes includes women being tortured, burned, shot with an arrow, nearly raped, jumping from high buildings, and much more. A woman's breast is sliced, and there are beheadings, severed limbs, bleeding hands and feet, crucifixion, and use of weapons including swords and whips (some wielded by Jesus). Scenes involving the Black Plague show people dying in the streets, with sores and boils. Expect graphic sex scenes between the two main characters, with kissing, fondling, oral, masturbating, thrusting, a sex toy, moaning, and climaxing. Full-frontal female nudity is frequent. Those watching with English subtitles will see words including "s--t," "hell," "damn," "balls," "pr--k," "idiot," "whore," and "slut." There's also a scene of defecating and a fart joke. Wine is mentioned and briefly drunk in a social setting.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySam M. December 3, 2021

Sex, Lies, and Catholicism

[[Worst scene disclaimer: HORRIFIC sexual torture scene in the last act. Easily the most disturbing part of the film. A fully nude woman is violated with a meta... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In BENEDETTA, Benedetta Carlini -- who believes she has a direct connection with Mother Mary -- is brought to live in a convent as a girl. Later, as a young woman (Virginie Efira), she has visions of Jesus that cause her to act peculiarly in front of the other nuns. One day, Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) arrives; she's a shepherd's daughter who's been abused by her father and is seeking asylum. Benedetta and Bartolomea find an instant connection, and the newcomer kisses Benedetta on the mouth. Benedetta's visions grow stronger, and she even starts bleeding from her hands and feet. She's promoted to Abbess, and she and Bartolomea share larger, private quarters, where their forbidden relationship flowers. But outside the convent walls, the Black Plague spreads across the land.

Is it any good?

Paul Verhoeven's "nunsploitation" drama explores faith and belief and sex and violence in a way that rivals even his most controversial movies: Basic Instinct and Showgirls. He presents Benedetta in a surprisingly straightforward way, even kicking off with the claim that it's based on true events. Yet even as the film reaches high for powerful themes, it dives down below the belt into exploitation elements so silly they're shocking, and vice versa. There's an obsession with female breasts (the left one in particular) and obvious attempts at subversive imagery, such as the Virgin Mary statuette carved into a sex toy. And there are graphic, gratuitous sex scenes galore. Benedetta's visions of Jesus look like the painted covers of cheesy romance novels.

But Verhoeven has a point. The movie continually explores themes of faith in surprising ways. The first Abbess (Charlotte Rampling) insists that true faith can come only from suffering, and that suffering is something that one should actually pray for. Another nun explains that "your body is your own worst enemy" and "intelligence can be dangerous." All of these things seem to go against the very idea of life itself, and when Benedetta starts to gain power through her smarts and her seeking of pleasure, she seems to become something rather divine. In the 1970s, a subgenre that came to be dubbed "nunsploitation" attempted to clash strict religious beliefs with carnality, and Verhoeven does precisely that again with Benedetta, stamping it with his own unique style.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Benedetta's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?

  • How is sex depicted here? What values are imparted? Is it meant to be titillating? Does it reveal anything about the characters? Does it advance the story?

  • What does the movie have to say about faith? Does it draw any clear conclusions, or is anything left up for interpretation?

  • How are LGBTQ+ characters represented here? Do Benedetta and Bartolomea share an emotional relationship as well as a physical one?

  • "Nunsploitation" is a subgenre that's existed since the 1970s, or even earlier. What is the appeal of this genre? What do you think the filmmakers are trying to say?

Movie details

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