The set design, by future director Derek Jarman, is probably the most successful element of the film.
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The funniest thing about this 1971 Ken Russell camp epic is probably the juxtaposition of its first-class production values (a good cast, great set design, marvelous photography) with Russell's no-class sexual fantasies—it's like a David Lean remake of Pink Flamingos.
The 1971 epic offers a stylish and scathing parable about the dangerous ways that the powerful can exploit religious zeal to stay that way.
Russell’s penchant for aesthetic excess is thoroughly indulged, as the director stages grotesque human tableaus straight out of Hieronymus Bosch over Derek Jarman’s intricately detailed sets. The result gives the story a sort of wanton, overripe feel, with such ostensibly austere environments as a cloistered convent about to explode with repressed sensuality.
All the events and persons depicted in The Devils are intended to be confused with actual events and persons. How do I know? Ken Russell tells me so.
It's a see-through movie composed of a lot of clanking, silly, melodramatic effects that, like rib-tickling, exhaust you without providing particular pleasure, to say nothing of enlightenment.