Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Flavia the Heretic|
Actors: Florinda Bolkan, Mar√?¬≠a Casares, Claudio Cassinelli, Anthony Higgins, Spiros Foc√?¬°s
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror
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Nuns gone wild
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 03/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I must say I was extremely excited when I finally sat down to watch "Flavia the Heretic." I first heard about the film years ago, back when DVD was first coming out and the only way to see films like this was to buy massively expensive first run VHS tapes or low quality dupes. The word on the street about Florinda Bolkan's epic nunsploitation flick was uniformly good. Most reviewers commented on the bizarre gore sequences, sequences renown for being over the top in the brutality department. And since I enjoyed Bolkan's odd performance as a tormented gypsy in Lucio Fulci's giallo "Don't Torture a Duckling," I figured giving this film a look was a no-brainer. Well, there is good and bad with "Flavia the Heretic." Bolkan's turn as a tormented nun is quite good and well worth watching. Regrettably, the gore isn't as disturbing as others said--at least not for me. Then again I've seen so many gore flicks that I'm probably jaded to most of this stuff. Whatever the case, "Flavia the Heretic" does succeed wildly on one important point: the movie is far, FAR better than "The Other Hell," hack director Bruno Mattei's banal contribution to the nunsploitation genre.
Through the eyes of Flavia Gaetani (Bolkan) we learn that fifteenth century Italy is not an amenable place for a young woman. The problems start when young Flavia witnesses the aftermath of a battle between Muslim invaders and her father's military forces. A wounded soldier has the temerity to make eye contact with the young girl, even smiles at her, before Flavia's father sees the two looking at each other and murders the Muslim in a fit of rage. So much for young love. The result of this innocuous exchange sees our young heroine ushered into a convent for life. Flavia isn't much of a nun, however, as she continually pushes the rules of the Church and antagonizes its officers. For example, her walks through the countryside often take her to the home of a Jew named Abraham (Claudio Cassinelli) for discussions of church doctrine as well as the role of women in society. Moreover, the young nun often undergoes hallucinations during lengthy bouts of prayers, hallucinations that tend to involve memories of the murdered Muslim soldier or one of the mosaics on the wall--of a male angel no less--assuming corporeal form in order to woo her. Apparently you can lock up a woman's body but you can't imprison her sensuality or yearning for independence.
Flavia will eventually find an unlikely ally in the form of Sister Agatha (Maria Casares), another nun who begins to question why women must submit to the will and desires of man. In the meantime, the arrival of a Tarantula cult (!) throws the convent into a dither. The women in this organization thrash about in the throes of some odd force, leaving behind them a message about liberation that makes a significant impact on Flavia. Also influencing her burgeoning feminist views are several scenes of cringe inducing violence: a French nobleman who takes what he wants from the local ladies, gruesome animal violence, and the sight of her father presiding over the torture murder of a fellow nun who happened to fall in with the Tarantula gals. Flavia eventually goes public with her new beliefs when the Muslims invade the area again. She manages to seduce the leader of this expedition and liberate the convent, thus allowing the nuns within to give full vent to their repressed emotions and desires. Our heroine even dons armor and leads a campaign against her father's soldiers. You go girl! Sadly, everything she accomplishes eventually comes crashing down with horrific results--this is still the fifteenth century, after all.
"Flavia the Heretic" is a movie a feminist scholar would probably like to analyze in an article. Most films in this genre would ramp up the gore and nudity in lieu of any meaningful themes. Not so "Flavia the Heretic"; this film spends nearly all its time discussing how women's subservience to men is an unacceptable standard by which to live let alone function as a healthy human being. The gore is almost an afterthought, as though the writer and director decided to throw in some nauseating scenes in an attempt to draw in the blood and carnage crowd. Don't get me wrong: the gory stuff witnessed by Flavia does occasionally merit a wince. Check out the scene where our heroine's dad tortures that nun, for example. I still can't believe he...well, watch and see for yourself. It's quite warped, though. Just as repulsive is what happens to Flavia after the Church and the locals reestablish control when the Muslims retreat. We only see what happens to her for a second or two, but the idea of the authorities executing a person in such a grotesque manner might send a few people running for the bathroom. Goodness, my leg is hurting just thinking about it! If I had any problems with the film, it's that the whole picture moves along in a painfully slow manner. The plodding pace nearly threatens to ruin the film in its entirety.
While I'm not surprised in the least to see Synapse Films release "Flavia" to disc, seeing as how they've made millions releasing controversial films to DVD, I am a bit disconcerted to see so few extras here. An interview with Bolkan, a trailer, and stills are the only things included as supplements. At least the picture transfer looks nice, and the fine audio quality allows the intriguing strings and flute score to come across well. Those who like their feminist dogma slathered in gory carnage (Who doesn't?) should definitely give this one a go.
Nunsploitation that isn't....
S. Koropeckyj | The Bright Side of the Moon | 09/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Flavia the Heretic is different from other exploitation films. Instead of being gore and sex hidden under a thin shroud of message (like for example Ilsa: Shewolf for the SS or the even more shallow Cannibal Ferox), Flavia the Heretic has a legitimate message (absurd as it might be at times), but gets grouped in with the sex and gore movies that the Italians are so famous for.
After sharing a brief smile with a Muslim soldier before he gets decollated, Flavia is sent to a convent by her uncaring father, where she is haunted by apparitions of angels and unexplained torture of fellow nuns. She asks the ever important question of why men have to be the rulers of women and finds a nun with sympathetic opinions who is even more anti-man than she. But then, salvation for her and friend: Muslims! Yeah, I know that sounds weird... well, because Muslims don't really have the best track record with femenism.
So Flavia manages to seduce the leader of the Muslim invaders after he defeats a group of Christian infidels, including one who Flavia has a certain grudge against (he was a French nobleman who raped a girl in a pig pen... dirty sex (not the Muslim way)). Flavia then frees the nuns and tries to imagine a utopian femenist society, exemplified in a very well directed surreal dream sequence.
But things fall through for our heroine... as they always did for women who took up arms against the establishment at that time and she gets dispatched in a rather gruesome fashion.
The movie is more than nunsploitation. None of the scenes are all that violent. Movies like Behind Convent Walls were certainly more sexually graphic and dwelt much longer on the sex scenes in attempt to make the erotic. No such attempts were made in this movie, instead the sex and violence scenes did nothing more than advance the plot, by striking a series of epiphanies in our heroines head.
Although parts of the movie are ridiculous... Sister Agatha talking about taking over the empty Vatican... there is a legitimately good movie under the surface of poor dubbing and the exploitation categorization. The movie is about femenism and its success being linked completely to the time. Flavia could not free the women from the oppressive hands of men. Some of the monologues sound ridiculous, but nothing that is said is so extrodinary, no, it is the the time and place things are said that make them seem so out of place. Whether many of the analytical aspects of the movie were intentional is up to debate, but just by watching the film, there is a lot that is beneath the surface.
Succeeds at nothing
Rob | Brentwood, CA United States | 01/25/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Let's face it. Most who watch a movie like this are either hoping for some good sex and gore and can laugh at the plot, or are hoping for a good movie despite the sex and gore. This one succeeds at neither. It is a quality film, shot with more expertise than is typical of the genre but takes itself a little too seriously. The theme of men having all the power in the 1400s is beaten into the viewer continuously to the point where you wish someone could actually hear you when you say I get it already. I would disagree on the attractiveness of women in the 7os as a few reviewers noted hairy armpits and such. They didn't have Barbie wannabees back then. Unfortunately the few scenes that actually do show nudity are far from erotic. If you are an ultra-feminist, and don't mind having your own point of view pointed out non-stop then this is the movie for you."
Over the top entertainment!!
Kule | Benicia, Ca. United States | 07/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is wild, for sure. If you like gore and violence, then this is your movie!!! Good acting, great picture (thanks Synapse!), and a lot of ridiculous action going on here!!! Definitely a movie for guys who like movies!!!"