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Benedetta Trailer: Paul Verhoeven’s Lesbian Nun Film Will Make You Blush

Virginie Efira peeping in Benedetta
Courtesy of Pathe/YouTube

Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director behind 2016’s Elle starring Isabelle Huppert, is back—this time with a film that’s sure to take on the moniker “the lesbian nun movie.” Based on Judith C. Brown’s 1986 novel Immodest Acts, it takes place in late 15th-century Pescia, Tuscany, which is in the midst of weathering the Bubonic Plague. The poster gives a pretty good idea of what the French-language film has in store: It features the titular nun, played by Elle’s Virginie Efira, in a habit that barely obscures her bare nipple.

To say she’s pious may be an understatement; she believes that she’s Jesus’s bride, and that’s why he gave her stigmata. Felecita (the legendary Charlotte Rampling), on the other hand, isn’t so sure. She’s also on to Benedetta’s burgeoning romance with her fellow sister Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia). Even Benedetta wishes it weren’t true; she describes it as “blasphemy” and whips herself to repent. The tryst has been equally controversial in real life, too. Verhoeven’s longtime collaborator, the writer Gerard Soeteman, left the crew because it was too sexual. (He also reportedly accused Verhoeven of cutting the novel’s feminism in favor of “fumbling with genitals.”)

Benedetta’s fate is, unsurprisingly, tragic. The trailer that dropped on Wednesday finds her crucified, about to burn alive.

Benedetta is just the latest in a series of lesbian period dramas over the past couple years. Francis Lee’s Ammonite (Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan), Célina Scamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant), Vita & Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton), and Saint Maud (Jenninfer Ehle and Morfydd Clark). Like Elle, Benedetta will premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as well as hit French theaters on July 9. (A U.S. release date hasn’t been announced just yet.)

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