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Master of Nun(sploitation): The Cinematic Influences of ‘Benedetta’

Developed something of a HABIT for nun films after watching ‘Benedetta’? We’ve got you covered.
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IFC Films
By  · Published on May 3rd, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that takes a look at the cinematic influences in Paul Verhoeven’s 2021 historical drama Benedetta.

When it was first announced five hundred billion years ago that Paul Verhoeven was making a film about the lesbian, nun, and mystic Benedetta Carlini, genre fans the world over-pumped their fists and adjusted their wimples in excitement. Okay, maybe specific genre fans did those things but I’m assuming that if you clicked on this link I’m in good company.

Not only did the spicy historical source material feel perfectly calibrated for the Dutch provocateur’s tastes, but Verhoeven’s penchant for pushing boundaries and exploring taboos also made him a perfect fit for nunsploitation, a sub-genre that is exactly what it sounds like.

That said, I’ll admit that my definition of “nunsploitation” may be looser than most folks’. But that’s just because there’s room in the cinematic convent for everyone in my opinion. Fittingly, as the montage below emphasizes, Verhoeven seems to also draw from a diverse collection of nun films, from off-the-rails offerings Mexico’s Alucarda (1977), which gleefully seats satanic possession and cloistered lesbians at the same table to more reserved psychological dramas like the two adaptations of Denis Diderot’s La Religieuse

As the video highlights, Verhoeven’s latest slots in neatly within a cinematic tradition that is far less niche than some may think — tales of isolated women across history who have found pain and pleasure in equal measure within the walls of the church.

Beware visual story spoilers ahead for Benedetta.

Watch “Déjà Vu: Benedetta”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the cinematic influences of Benedetta is by Paris-based actress and videographer Candice Drouet, an old favorite around these parts. She has worked with the likes of Adidas and Fandor, and she currently collaborates with the French premium television channel Canal+, for which she created today’s video about the cinematic resonances of Tenet. You can follow Drouet on Instagram here. And on Twitter here. And you can check out her back catalog of videos on Vimeo here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).