In 1987, audiences got their first look at the action, science-fiction, crime story from director Paul Verhoeven. RoboCop remains a classic today. While the director followed that up with Total Recall, and later Starship Troopers, he’s also the mind behind Basic Instinct and 2016’s Elle, a revenge-themed thriller. Verhoeven likes to push what he can do as a filmmaker. He doesn’t stick to a single genre and he isn’t afraid of a challenge. Now, he’s gearing up for Cannes 2021, where he’ll be finally premiering Benedetta, a biographical drama following Sister Benedetta Carlini, a Catholic nun and an important figure in LGBT history.
See the 15-second teaser for the RoboCop director’s new film below.
Benedetta has already had a bit of controversy surrounding it, though it has yet to be released. It’s easy to understand why. The Catholic church has a controversial history with accepting LGBT people. This historical story centers on the true-life story of a lesbian nun who engaged in relationships. This is an important note, since the Roman Catholic Church has advocated for LGBT people to remain celibate. However, Gerard Soeteman, who has worked with the RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven on eight prior projects, wanted his name removed from Benedetta because he didn’t feel comfortable with how much of the movie he felt was focused on sexuality.
Benedetta is a project that has been in the making for several years. Director Paul Verhoeven began with three possible stories he might want to make next, eventually landing on Benedetta, which was originally titled Blessed Virgin. The story is based on much of the information included in the non-fiction book by Judith C. Brown, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy. The story surrounding Sister Benedetta makes her experiences one of the earliest recorded stories in modern Western history for a lesbian. While LGBT stories are on the rise, they’re still rare.
Paul Verhoeven has been known in some circles as the “violent Dutchman“. After making Total Recall, RoboCop, and Starship Troopers, he was known for going far. In some circles, they felt he went too far. His movie Showgirls was met with poor reception and many felt that it went too far with its focus on sexual scenes, though that’s what the movie was about. Roger Ebert called it a “sleazefest“. It will be interesting to see how audiences now react to Benedetta. With so few LGBT historical dramas around, the film is bound to be one that gets talked about in LGBT movie lists for years to come, whether audiences love or hate it.
The movie will finally premiere at Cannes 2021, which begins July 6th. It was originally meant to premiere at the festival in 2019, but the RoboCop director was recovering from hip surgery. Then, the pandemic delayed the 2020 event. The film was shot in Italy. The set was completely locked down, to keep leaks from happening and hopefully avoid some of the controversy surrounding the film before its release. It’s been a few years now since the movie was completed and initial reactions have had time to die down. It will be interesting to see now how things pick back up again after the premiere in July.