Russian cinemas are not allowed to show Paul Verhoeven‘s new film, as its content violates Russian law. The film Benedetta, in which a nun gets into a relationship with a woman in a 17th-century monastery, was due to premiere in Russia on October 7, but the Ministry of Culture refuses to issue a license.
According to the ministry, the film contains a scene of provocative content, “which is considered to be a violation of the freedom of conscience and religious law”. What scene it is about has not been disclosed. Benedetta can be seen naked at many times. The film also has a much discussed scene in which a Mary statue is used as a dildos.
Russia has strict rules for the display of films and series, particularly with regard to religion and homosexuality. Since 2013, it has been forbidden to “propagate non-traditional sexual relations”. Recently, the screening of the Romanian film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn was also stopped, because the title would be too provocative. After the title was modified, the film was still allowed to be screened.
Despite this, most (western) films covering lhbti individuals and relationships can be seen in Russian cinemas and streaming services, says CCeit-Russia correspondent Iris de Graaf. “But perhaps the Ministry of Culture thought this film was too far due to the combination of both lhbti and religion.”
The power of the Russian Orthodox Church has grown in recent years, says De Graaf. “Russia is becoming more conservative and the rules stricter. This film goes directly against that.”
At Benedetta‘s world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, film critics responded splitly to Verhoeven’s film, including because the sex scenes would be too explicit. Reviewers called Verhoeven a “politically incorrect provocateur”.
The critically acclaimed director informed De Volkskrant that he never wanted a scandal. In addition, the use of a Mariadildo is historically correct, he said, because women landed at the stake in the 17th century when “an instrument” had been used.