IFC Buys Paul Verhoeven Erotic Thriller ‘Benedetta’

IFC Films has struck early, nabbing North American rights to “Benedetta” ahead of the erotic thriller’s premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The film has drawn interest from a number of distributors due in part to its pedigree. “Benedetta” is directed by a master of the form, Paul Verhoeven, who previously oversaw “Basic Instinct,” “Total Recall,” and “Black Book.” It marks Verhoeven’s first directorial effort since his 2016 film “Elle,” which premiered in competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and earned an Oscar nomination for its star Isabelle Huppert.

According to the official description, “‘Benedetta’ entangles sexuality, religion, and human ambition in its story of a young novitiate in 17th century Italy who begins an affair with another nun.” IFC Films plans to release the film this year.

Written by Verhoeven and his “Elle” collaborator David Birke, the film is inspired by historian Judith C. Brown’s non-fiction book “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy” and is produced by Said Ben Said for SBS Production, Michel Merkt, and Pathé. The film stars Virginie Efira alongside Daphne Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Hervé Pierre, and the great Charlotte Rampling.

In the late 17th century, with plague ravaging the land, Benedetta Carlini (Efira) joins the convent in Pescia, Tuscany, as a novice. Tormented by religious and erotic visions and capable from an early age of performing miracles, Benedetta’s impact on life in the community is immediate and momentous. The film is the kind of edgy and provocative work that IFC has staked its reputation on releasing — the company’s previous films include “Y Tu Mamá También,” “Gomorrah,” and “Antichrist.”

Originally slated to make its world premiere at the cancelled 2020 edition of Cannes, “Benedetta” will now arrive on the Croisette this July, where it will compete for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize. Verhoeven was also previously at Cannes with “Basic Instinct,” which opened the festival in 1992.

“’Benedetta’ walks the line between the sacred and the profane, and in the hands of visionary filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, it’s a provocative thriller that will entice audiences everywhere,” Arianna Bocco, president of IFC Films, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with Verhoeven, Said Ben Said, Pathé, and the stellar production team to launch the film in North America this year.”

The deal for the film was negotiated by IFC Films President Arianna Bocco and Director of Acquisitions Aijah Keith with Marie Laure Montironi, Executive Vice President International Sales at Pathé.

Producers Pathé and SBS stated: “We are thrilled to partner with the very talented team at IFC on this exceptional Verhoeven film. We feel it really is the right home for the film in the US and the long expertise of the IFC team is a great asset to optimize the launch and visibility of ‘Benedetta.’”

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