Paul Verhoeven will team up with “Elle” producer Saïd Ben Saïd for “Blessed Virgin,” a drama about a lesbian nun set int he 17th century. “Elle” actress Virginie Efira has been cast in the lead role of Sister Benedetta Carlini, a visionary nun whose rise to power was thwarted when church authorities discovered evidence of a love affair with another nun, imprisoning her for 35 years.
The film will be shot entirely in French, and is based on the 1986 book “Immodest Acts: The Life Of A Lesbian Nun In Renaissance Italy,” written by historian Judith C Brown. Gerard Soeteman, co-writer on Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” will pen the screenplay.
Ben Saïd announced the project on Twitter:
SAINTE VIERGE de Paul Verhoeven avec Virginie Efira. En tournage prochainement. pic.twitter.com/kCnSqGYyVc
— Saïd Ben Saïd (@saidbensaid66) April 25, 2017
One of the earliest documented lesbian stories in Western history, Brown based her book on surprisingly candid papers she found in the state archives of Florence, according to a New York Times review from the year it was published. Born wealthy, Carlini entered the convent at age nine. At 23, she began to have visions of a religious and erotic nature, elevating her to the position of Abbess. Her claims to have supernatural contact with Christ aroused suspicion, beginning the investigation that would uncover her affair with a nun named Bartolomeo.
The erotic story is ripe for a Verhoeven treatment, which no doubt will revel in the more salacious details, as the first image can attest. The director of camp classics “Showgirls” and “Basic Instinct” has his share of LGBTQ devotees, but those were not explicitly queer stories. The controversial “Elle” earned Isabelle Huppert an Oscar, but received mixed criticism for its sympathetic depiction of rape. Whatever their reasons, people will certainly be watching “Blessed Virgin” very closely.