As a Christian, I’m naturally inclined to believe in the validity of Benedetta’s visions, but I was surprised the degree to which the film — and Verhoeven — seem to agree, or at least in the conviction of her beliefs. Many have rightly commented on the general primacy of power relations over the lesbian copulations that were supposed to be the backbone, and it’s important to situate that within how it relates to the central dilemma of faith: the belief in something that can’t be directly experienced. Numerous characters, even Rampling’s daughter, invoke this, twisting it for their own ends, and while the film can be said to be a critique of the Catholic Church, a central core of faith remains intact. The two characters who most fervently express a desire for faith, Benedetta and the Reverend Mother, maintain it to the end, and as such remains unchallenged in that realm, even by the forces of lust for sex or power. What they end up doing with that desire is where interpretation lies, and where purity is corrupted.
December 2021 Capsules