The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has announced his next project to be Blessed Virgin, the true story of a lesbian nun in the 17th century Italy. Virginie Efira will play the lead role of Sister Bernadette Carlini, after previously playing Rebecca in Verhoeven’s latest film Elle beside Isabelle Hubbert.
The film will focus on the real life Sister Benedetta Carlini, who was abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God in Tuscany in the early 1600s, and has been forgotten by history. Reporting to have disturbing visions, she was confined to her cell in the convent, but continued to have these violent and sometimes erotic visions. Allegedly , she engaged in sexual relations with another nun at her convent named Sister Bartolemea, which according to Bartolemea, Benedetta was possessed by the spirit of a male demon known to be called ‘Splenditello’. Author Judith C. Brown wrote of her life in her 1986 book Immodest Acts, and Canadian playwright/director Rosemary Rowe has written a play called Benedetta Carlini: Lesbian Nun of Renaissance Italy.
The choice to make a controversial Christian-themed film is not a new concept for Verhoeven. He is a member of the ‘Jesus Seminar’, a controversial group of about 150 biblical scholars and laymen, founded in 1985 by Robert Funk, who meet to discuss the historical life of Jesus Christ. Since the death of founder Robert Funk in 2006, the group has not been as prominent, but was known for voting by means of colored beads, with each color representing a certain answer. In 2007 Verhoeven wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and how his teachings and life has been warped and corrupted over the last 2,000 years. The book, which was published in 2008, was co-written with Verhoeven’s biographer Rob Van Scheers, and was a culmination of the research Verhoeven had conducted in preparation for his film Jesus: The Man. Although the film never made it out of pre-production, the film would have been about the life of Jesus Christ, which would have downplayed the miraculous and supernatural events of his life.
Verhoeven’s films have garnered nine academy award nominations, with most of them having been for editing and visual effects. His films include 1990 sci-fi film Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone, 1992 erotic-thriller Basic Instinct starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone, and 1987 cyberpunk sci-fi film RoboCop.
Stay tuned for more details about Blessed Virgin.