At the Cannes Film Festival press conference for the title in competition with Paul Verhoeven Benedetta this morning, the director and cast answered a series of questions about the use of nudity and sex in the film while Verhoeven bristled at the suggestion Benedetta is in no way blasphemous. “I don’t really understand how you can blaspheme something that happened… You can’t fundamentally change history after the fact. You can say it was wrong or not, but you can’t change the story. I think the word blasphemy for me in this case is stupid, ”he said.

The scorching period play, premiered last night, is the true story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century abbess whose claims of mystical visions and miracles were investigated by the Catholic Church in a lawsuit that has lasted from 1619 to 1623 and resulted in his imprisonment. . Deadline’s Todd McCarthy described it in his review as “a medieval brew of religious fervor, illicit lesbian sex in a convent, Catholic church politics, and – to add a contemporary twist – a scourge sweeping the country.” .

Paul Verhoeven tackles sex and religion with “Benedetta” in Cannes, refutes memory of Sharon Stone’s “Basic Instinct”

There is a lot of sex and nudity, but the actors were unfazed, they said today. The star Virginie Efira believes: “Sexuality is an interesting subject. There aren’t many directors who know how to film it. Paul Verhoeven has known this from the start and he is someone who has dealt with this major subject in an amazing way. Nakedness is irrelevant when it is not portrayed in a beautiful way, which is not what Paul does. Everything was very happy when we got undressed.

Daphne Patakia, who plays Sister Bartolomea, confirmed: “You forget that there are these naked bodies. I feel like even in Paul’s other movies, those scenes where people are naked or have sex, well, they talk a lot. Patakia said she didn’t hesitate for a second when approached for the role. Even though there are some love scenes that could have been “a little scary”, Verhoeven, “immediately told me about the love scenes, so I knew exactly how they were going to be shot.”

Verhoeven added: “Usually when people have sex they get naked, so I’m stunned that we don’t want to look at the reality of life. The reason why this Puritanism was introduced is, in my opinion, a mistake.

There is certainly a denial of nudity, admitted Verhoeven. “What we had in the 70s, everyone on the beaches was shirtless. It’s completely gone and I don’t think it’s an improvement.

Actress Louise Chevillotte answered a question about Verhoeven’s ability to work with women and said: “Women are portrayed in complex ways. What I love about Paul’s films is that women are portrayed in all their complexity and this film is the embodiment of that approach.

For the co-star Clotilde Courau, “feminism is there”, in Benedetta, “Thanks to Paul’s approach and sensitivity. There is an animal side to the film and it is an integral part of a human being. Working with Paul is a huge opportunity. In his films, there is no point of view, he lets each viewer adopt his own point of view.

Verhoeven said he was driven to do Benedetta because they were “events which, in one way or another, actually happened.” He added, “I wasn’t trying to get into something feminine that I didn’t understand. I understood this because the women themselves told me in the book what they were doing.

Read Deadline’s Deep Dive with Verhoeven here.

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