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Paul Verhoeven Disses Critics of ‘Benedetta’ Sex Scenes That Shook Cannes

Verhoeven's 17th-century lesbian nun drama had some viewers fired up on the Croisette earlier this week.

"Benedetta"

“Benedetta”

Pathe

One film that has plenty of people fired up at the Cannes Film Festival this week is Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nun drama “Benedetta.” Centered on the horny dynamic between two nuns in a 17th-century Italian convent, the film has generated quite the stir for its sex scenes, including one where a character uses a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary as a dildo. To some at the festival’s press conference, the film’s sex scenes came across as blasphemous — a response that director Verhoeven would hear none of. (Via Variety.)

According to the Variety report, Verhoeven grew defensive as questions homed in on everything from feminism to nudity. “I don’t really understand how you can really blaspheme about something that happened, even in 1625,” he said. “You cannot change history, you cannot change things that happened, and I based it on the things that happened. So I think the word blasphemy in this case is stupid.”

When asked by one reporter how Verhoeven achieved the already notorious scene involving using an effigy as a sex toy, Verhoeven remarked, “Well, you saw the movie.” The director has never shied away from in-your-face sexual content, from “Basic Instinct” to “Elle.”

When asked about the film’s unabashed nudity, Verhoeven said, “Don’t forget, in general, people, when they have sex, they take their clothes off. So I’m stunned basically by the fact that we don’t want to look at the reality of life. Why this puritanism has been introduced — it is in my opinion wrong.”

As for the question of whether Verhoeven would ever use an intimacy coordinator of the sort that are now standard in Hollywood, he said, “[The actors] themselves were the intimacy coordinators. I felt it. Sometimes it might be necessary but for the time being I believe not in France.”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich was not so shaken by the film according to his review out of the festival: “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. You get the sense that’s by design to a certain extent: While certainly not making any concessions to the puritan crowd, Verhoeven is only interested in provocation so far as it might slap people into appreciating how ‘God’s will’ tends to reflect the self-interests of those who see fit to enforce it (anyone who would be outraged by the content of this movie will already be outraged by the mere idea of it).”

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