Benedetta is an emerging biographical drama directed and co-written by the acclaimed filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, perhaps best known for Robocop and Starship Troopers. The film stars Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a fledgling nun in the 17th century who joins an Italian monastery in Pescia, Tuscany, who then begins a love affair with another woman. Benedetta premieres in Cannes and was picked up for distribution in the US by IFC Films.
The film is based on the 1986 non-fiction novel “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy” by Judith C. Brown. Paul Verhoeven brings back most of his most important crew members from his previous film Elle, (who played with Efira), producer Saïd Ben Saïd, writer David Birke, composer Anne Dudley and editor Job ter Burg. You can watch the short teaser below.
Benedetta is scheduled to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021 in competition for the Palme d’Or. Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, Lambert Wilson as The Nuncio, Daphne Patakia as Bartolomea, Charlotte Rampling as The Abbess, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Hervé Pierre, Louise Chevillotte and Nicolas Gaspar.
After the critical and commercial success of Verhoeven’s previous film Elle (2016), he developed several projects, including one about Jesus based on his own book Jesus of Nazareth, the second project about the French Resistance, and the third written by Jean-Claude Carrière, a medieval story set in a monastery. In April 2017, producer Saïd Ben Saïd revealed that the third had been chosen as Verhoeven’s next project.
The film, then titled Holy Virgin marked the producer and the director’s second collaboration after that Elle. Gerard Soeteman, who previously worked with Verhoeven on eight previous films including Turkish fruit (1973), The fourth man (1983) and Black book (2006), replaced Career to adapt the non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy published in 1986 and written by historian Judith C. Brown. Soeteman decided to distance himself so much from his involvement in the project that he eventually decided to have his name removed from the credits. Reasons for this are that he felt the story focused too much on sexuality.
Judith C. Brown stated that “Paul Verhoeven and David Birke have written an imaginative and enchanting script that explores the intersection of religion, sexuality and human ambition in an age of plague and faith.” Verhoeven went on to clarify his intentions: “The Holy Virgin must be deeply imbued with a sense of the sacred. I have always been interested in the sacred since I was a child, both in general and more specifically in music. and paintings. “
On April 3, 2018, Lambert Wilson told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that he has a part in the movie. May 1, 2018 Deadline Hollywood revealed that Charlotte Rampling began negotiations to play an important supporting role. On May 4, 2018, Verhoeven announced that the film was being renamed to “BenedettaAlthough Verhoeven had hoped to convince Isabelle Huppert to play a supporting role in the film, producer Saïd Ben Saïd stated on May 31, 2018 that Huppert would not participate in the project. Ben Saïd also confirmed that Louise Chevillotte, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau and Hervé Pierre were all officially cast in the film.
Principal photography began on July 19, 2018 in Montepulciano, Italy. Other important sites include Val d’Orcia and Bevagna, both in Italy, as well as Silvacane Abbey and Le Thoronet Abbey in France. The production was followed by a strong secrecy campaign and no one was allowed on the set unless working on the film. Producer Saïd Ben Saïd admitted the story was “the subject of controversy” and feared reactions from fundamentalist Catholic associations.
On February 16, 2018 The Hollywood Reporter announced that Pathé would produce and distribute the film in France as well as handle international sales. On August 29, 2018, Pathé and SBS Productions released a first frame of the film. Although it was initially reported that the film would premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, Pathé announced on January 14, 2019 that its release had been delayed to 2020.
Pathe stated that the reason postproduction had slowed was due to the fact that Verhoeven took time to recover from hip surgery. However, its release was again delayed until 2021, following the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered. This most recent cancellation was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 10, 2020, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux confirmed the selection of the film, stating: “Paul Verhoeven delivers an erotic and naughty, also political, vision of the Middle Ages in a grandiose production. On June 3, 2020, Fremaux confirmed that the film will premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021 in competition for the Palme d’Or On 5 May 2021, Pathé unveiled the first trailer and the last poster for a cinema release.