Marks the return of director Paul Verhoeven working with his long time collaborating screenwriter Gerard Soeteman. The last film they worked together on was Black Book (2006)
This is the second collaboration between Paul Verhoeven and Virginie Efira after Elle (2016).
This is Paul Verhoeven's second French-language film.
Although Paul Verhoeven had hoped to convince Isabelle Huppert to play a supporting role in the film, producer Saïd Ben Saïd stated on Twitter on May 31, 2018, that the actress was not joining the project.
Initially scheduled for release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, but Paul Verhoeven unexpectedly suffered a hip injury during production in December 2018, due to the set's location which involved lots of hills and climbing. Post-production in Amsterdam had to be delayed until the following June in order to recover from his surgery. However, subsequent complications caused an intestinal obstruction that ended in a life-threatening colonic perforation; fortunately, he was hospitalized in time. Verhoeven and producer Saïd Ben Saïd agreed to delay the release to 2020 in order for Verhoeven to recover, and be fully present during the post-production process.
Gerard Soeteman, long-time collaborator of director Paul Verhoeven, had written the first draft of the screenplay a long time before the film went into production. He wasn't involved in later re-writes by David Birke. Soeteman chose to remain uncredited, citing his dissatisfaction with the movie's emphasis on sexual content, especially how Paul Verhoeven had ditched many of the feminist elements in his script version in favor of "fumbling with genitals".
There is plenty of sex and nudity, but all the actors said in interviews that they were unfazed. Star Virginie Efira believes, "Sexuality is an interesting subject. There aren't that many directors who know how to film it. Paul Verhoeven has known from the beginning and is someone who has dealt with this major topic in an amazing way. Nudity is of no interest when it's not depicted in a beautiful way, that's not what Paul does. Everything was very joyful when we stripped off our clothes." Daphné Patakia, who plays Sister Bartolomea, concurred, "You forget there are these naked bodies. I have the impression that even in Paul's other films, these scenes where people are nude or making love, well they speak reams." Patakia said she didn't hesitate for a second when she was approached for the role. Even though there are love scenes which might have been "a bit scary," Verhoeven, "immediately talked to me about the love scenes so I knew exactly how they were going to be shot." Paul Verhoeven chimed in, "In general, when people have sex, they take their clothes off so I'm stunned by the fact that we don't want to look at the reality of life. Why this puritanism has been introduced is, in my opinion, wrong."
At a press conference during Cannes, Paul Verhoeven said he was driven to make Benedetta because it was "about events that in some way had really happened. I was not trying to get into some female thing that I didn't understand. I understood it because the women themselves told me in the book what they were doing." Yet actresses Louise Chevillotte and Clotilde Courau said that the film still tells the story from a woman's side. Chevillotte said, "Women are depicted in a complex way. What I love in Paul's films is that women are portrayed in all their complexity and this film is the embodiment of that approach." Courau added that "feminism is very much there, thanks to Paul's approach and sensitivity. There is an animal side to the film and that is part and parcel of a human being. Working with Paul is a huge opportunity. In his films there is no viewpoint, he lets each viewer adopt their own viewpoint."
At the Cannes Film Festival press conference, Paul Verhoeven was upset at the suggestion that his film is in any way blasphemous. "I do not understand really how you can be blasphemous about something that happened. You cannot basically change history after the fact. You can talk about that was wrong or not, but you cannot change history. I think the word blasphemy for me in this case is stupid."
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