You can’t call a film as lurid and alive as Benedetta a closing statement, but there is something valedictory about the erotic religious drama, which finds time to explore questions of voyeurism, sadism, masochism, systems of power, perversion, repression, rebellion, storytelling, divinity, irony and belief. Oh, and sex — plenty and plenty of nun-on-nun sex.
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Despite a handful of headline-worthy moments and a generally blasphemous — or perhaps just humanistic? — attitude toward the dogmas of the Catholic Church, Benedetta can’t help but feel like one of Verhoeven’s tamer efforts.
If Benedetta is a joke that Verhoeven is in on, and that is designed to play to those in on it too, we can at least be thankful that it’s a good joke – not that there’s anyone up there to be thankful to.
The Hollywood Reporter by Jordan Mintzer
We may never know if Benedetta was sincere about her visions in the end, just as it’s impossible to judge how sincere Verhoeven is when he’s indulging in the erotic visions that have made him famous. The beauty of Benedetta is that it never provides a straightforward answer to all of our questions, making it mostly a matter of faith.
It’s the tone that’s off here, as it is throughout a film which seems to wink at what it perhaps wants us to see as irony – its soft porn tropes like bondage and flagellation, its over-saturated sci-fi view of a comet’s passing, its horror-influenced vision of the plague – while keeping both eyes firmly open.
Throughout Benedetta, Paul Verhoeven builds up a heady, campy mix of religious imagery, corporeal abjectness, and masochism.
The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw
Verhoeven just presents us with the raunchiness, using the religiosity as set dressing.
With its haters-be-damned approach to all things carnal, Benedetta is intended to arouse, thereby satisfying the most basic definition of pornography, even if Verhoeven (who claims a certain scholarly interest in the subject as well) does surround the titillating bits with illuminating insights into Renaissance religious life.
As a statement, Benedetta won’t win any awards for coherence, but there’s just Too Much Verhoeven going on here for sensation hunters ever to feel short-changed.
Verhoeven brings his powers of titillation and spectacle to a 15th-century convent and leaves the audience with unanswered, thought-provoking questions at the end of it all. Charlotte Rampling and Virginie Efira give stand-out performances that anchor the more extreme parts of the storyline with moments of subtlety.