Verhoeven’s film “Benedetta” banned in Russia

The Russian Ministry of Culture has withdrawn the exploitation visa for Paul Verhoeven’s film without specifying the reason. But there is every reason to believe that the Orthodox Church lobbied because of scenes deemed pornographic and offensive to believers.

“Russian spectators could soon have gone to the cinema to see Paul Verhoeven’s film Benedetta [renommé La Tentation, en Russie]. Some would have appreciated it, because according to critics who have watched the film in the West, it is a powerful psychological drama and, in a sense, a religious mystery. [un genre théâtral]. Others would undoubtedly have complained against certain scenes [jugées pornographiques], seeing it as an offense against Christian symbols. But that will not happen ”, writes the Russian daily Nezavissimaïa Gazeta.

And for good reason, deplores the title, the Russian Ministry of Culture has withdrawn its exploitation visa for the film, which tells the story of an exalted nun of the XVIIe century and had been selected at the last Cannes Film Festival. It will therefore not be released in Russian theaters, as planned, on October 7. “The Russians are going to have to accept that it is decided for them what they can and cannot watch.”

For the democratic daily, there is no doubt that behind the ministry’s decision is an influential lobby, that of the Sorok Sorokov association (“Forty times forty”, a name referring to the legend of “40 times 40” churches that Moscow would once have housed). The ban on distributing the film was supported by the synodal department of the Russian Orthodox Church in charge of society and media relations.

Forbidden fruit

The tradition of banning films, shows, concerts and exhibitions at the request of offended believers already has a long history in Russia, recalls the title, which notes that often the invectives of shocked people are not based on anything concrete , the latter having not seen the offending works.

Based on rumors, one can of course imagine that the film ‘Blessed’ is just a collection of pornographic scenes whose sole purpose is desecration. You can read the description in some articles. But in doing so, we lose sight of the director’s larger purpose: to study the nature of religious exaltation, often mixed with sexual passion and thirst for power. However, these themes are very topical in Russia. ”

The Vatican has not called for the film to be banned in Europe, the title points out, “Because, over there, these subjects are no longer taboo. While Russia has so far opted for control, which may spark interest in the pirated version of the film, turned into a delicious forbidden fruit. ”

As specified daily online, the order of prohibition of exploitation, decreed by the Ministry of Culture, does not contain any reason justifying the decision.

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