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Benedetta - What We Know So Far

2021's "Benedetta" promises to be memorable with its campy erotic tale of a lesbian nun blessed with visions of Jesus and a town plagued with the plague. Based on the non-fiction book "Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy" by Judith C. Brown, "Benedetta" tells the story of the 17th century Italian nun Benedetta and her illicit, steamy affair with newcomer nun Sister Bartolomea.

The film comes from controversial Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who's well known for his erotic and violent films, including "Basic Instinct," "Starship Troopers," and the French language film "Elle." Recently, he's been on the receiving end of startling accusations by "Basic Instinct" star Sharon Stone, but the 83-year-old director is still making his signature transgressive films.

With the drama of Catholic church politics, themes of religious power, and an ever important wooden Virgin Mary dildo, "Benedetta" is certain to be one of the wildest movies of the year. Here's everything we know about it.

What is the release date of Benedetta?

Eager audiences don't have too long to wait, as "Benedetta" is coming to theaters and VOD in the United States on December 3rd, according to Deadline. Critics' reviews are already out, as the movie first premiered in France at Cannes Film Festival and then made its North America debut at the New York Film Festival. Originally meant to debut at Cannes in 2020, "Benedetta" was delayed due to, of course, the pandemic.

The film is spoken in French, despite having a Italian setting. Director Paul Verhoeven said in an interview with Indie Wire that filming in Italian would have been "too difficult for [him]" — he already had experience film making in French with "Elle." Either way, English-speaking viewers can expect to watch with subtitles.

Who is in the cast of Benedetta?

Leading the cast is Belgian actor Virginie Efira as the titular Benedetta Carlini. Elfira has worked with director Paul Verhoeven before, in another of his French language films, "Elle." Additionally, she's known for starring in the French romcom "In Bed with Victoria." In an interview with Collider, Elfira said, "I felt so lucky to get to work with [Verhoeven] ... For many years I was only offered romcoms with stereotyped characters. Now that I'm older the roles are more complicated so it's wonderful and I hope it will continue." Verhoeven said in an interview with Indie Wire that he didn't audition Efira, but simply offered her the part.

In the role of Benedetta's love interest, Bartolomea, is Daphné Patakia, who's currently on the French series "OVNI(s)" and was on the series "Versailles" before that. They're joined by English actor Charlotte Rampling, who has a successful acting career stretching back to the 1960s, as the head of the convent, Abbess Felicita. Rampling is no stranger to controversial erotic films, having starred in "The Night Porter," a drama about a sadomasochistic relationship between a concentration camp prisoner (Rampling) and a Nazi officer. She's also known for the drama "45 Years," has appeared in TV series such as "Dexter" and "Broadchurch," and is in 2021's "Dune."

What is the plot of Benedetta?

Paul Verhoeven never read the "Starship Troopers" source material, but he did read "Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy" for this movie (via Indie Wire). "Benedetta" is inspired by the real life of the mystic Benedetta Carlini, an ambitious 17th century nun who was imprisoned by her convent for faking miracles and sleeping with another nun, among other things, according to the New York Times. Verhoeven took this intriguing history and ran with it, creating a riot of a movie about the undeniable connection between Benedetta and Bartolomea — and one that makes the audience wonder whether or not Benedetta is truly having divine visions.

"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 ... does surround the titillating bits with illuminating insights into Renaissance religious life," Peter Debruge wrote in a review for Variety. There's nudity and church drama, plus the almost too poignant plague plot threatening the town, creating a constantly changing tone for "Benedetta," that is sure to be as entertaining as it is provocative.