Certain directors spark outrage without even trying, and others like Paul Verhoeven, don’t seem to be satisfied unless their new film raises a controversy or two. After milestones in the matter such as Basic Instinct, Showgirls or Elle, the Dutch maestro is on his way to scoring a new goal with Benedetta, in which Virginie Efira plays a visionary lesbian nun in the 17th century.
Of course, such subject matter must hurt some sensibilities, as protests against the film at the New York Film Festival have shown. During the screening of the movie at the Lincoln Center, a group of around 30 people gathered to denounce a film they considered offensive to their beliefs.
Walked past this group of ~20 protestors to get to my 3:00pm screening at Alice Tully Hall. The movie? BENEDETTA. And they are upset about its “blasphemous” portrayal of nuns and Catholicism. They’re repeatedly saying Hail Mary’s into megaphones. Good publicity for the movie! pic.twitter.com/BPpf7Rjblu
— Christian Blauvelt (@ctblauvelt) September 26, 2021
Images from the demonstration show banners in which Benedetta is described as “the blasphemous lesbian movie” that “insults the sanctity of Catholic nuns.”
According to IndieWire, and as seen in the videos, protesters (part of a group called America Needs Fatima) were repeatedly saying Hail Marys and deafening the audience with bagpipes and drums.
Catholic protestors highly offended by the lesbian nuns in BENEDETTA and have taken to protesting outside NYFF & its uhhhhm wild pic.twitter.com/M5qUUDV5Af
— Inglorious Baguettes🖤 (@morebaguettes) September 26, 2021
This otherwise unremarkable attack on Benedetta makes it the latest film to arouse the ire of the Catholic flock at the New York Film Festival since Kevin Smith’s Dogma.
On the other hand, Verhoeven’s film could join the list of movies prosecuted for alleged blasphemy, with titles like Jean-Luc Goddard’s Hail Mary, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.