Verhoeven returns to Cannes

Lesbian drama confirmed for festival’s Official Competition

by Richard Mowe

Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian historical drama Benedetta has been confirmed for this year’s Cannes Film Festival in July
Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian historical drama Benedetta has been confirmed for this year’s Cannes Film Festival in July Photo: Guy Ferrandis/SBS Productions
Paul Verhoeven will be back on the Croisette and picking up on his favourite themes of "religion, eroticism and controversy”
Paul Verhoeven will be back on the Croisette and picking up on his favourite themes of "religion, eroticism and controversy” Photo: Jean-Baptiste Le Mercier/Unifrance
As the guessing game about the official selections intensifies in the run-up to the “new” Cannes Film Festival dates in July rather than May the organisers have just confirmed that Paul Verhoeven’s much anticipated Benedetta will be part of the official line-up for the 74th edition.

The film will received its world premiere in Competition on 9 July - the same day it opens in cinemas in France.

It seems to have certain resonance with our Covid times. Set in the late 15th century with a plague ravaging the land, Benedetta Carlini (played by Belgian actress Virginie Efira) joins a convent in Pescia, Tuscany, as a novice. From an early age she has had a gift of being able to perform miracles … and she proceeds to use her powers to assist the community in its hour of need. She also begins a love affair with another woman. It’s based on the novel Immodest Acts – The Life of A Lesbian Nun In Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown with a script from David Burke which was inspired by real events.

The director of Basic Instinct, Elle and RoboCop has said that even though he wrote and shot the film before the pandemic there are connections. " It’s about the outbreak of the plague in a town in Italy and so happens to be very prophetic,” Verhoeven has said.

The film, originally titled Blessed Virgin, also stars Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia, Lambert Wilson and Olivier Rabourdin and seems to pick up on favourite Verhoeven themes of religion, eroticism and controversy.

Verhoeven was last in Cannes in 2016 with Elle featuring Isabelle Huppert. Benedetta is the second time he has worked in French.

It has already been announced that the Festival will open on 6 July with Leos Carax’s musical Annette with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. The Cannes Film Festival runs from 6 July to 15 July.

Watch the Benedetta trailer:

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