The Devils // Ken Russell, 1971

20 May

Ken Russell’s controversial 1971 film incorporates sexually explicit hallucinatory sequences into this story based on the supposed demonic possessions in that took place in 17th Century Loudon, France.

An order of Ursuline nuns begin to exhibit wild, uncontrolled behavior thought to be led by Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), a proud priest, who has recently gained political control of Loudon. Sister Jeanne des Anges (Vanessa Redgrave), the sexually repressed hunchback Mother Superior of the convent becomes infatuated with Grandier, and her striking sexual fantasies haunt her guilty conscious.

Once word of Grandier’s secret marriage to another woman reaches Jeanne, she collapses into fits of hysteria and claims to have been possessed by the Devil through Grandier. Other nuns in the convent also claim to be possessed and the convent explodes into a frenzy of sexual outbursts and bizarre public exorcisms.

Russell boldly depicts the effects of sexual oppression mixed with religious mania. The censored scenes of the “demonic possessions” include a psychedelic orgy of naked nuns “raping” a statue of Christ and Sister Jeanne masturbating with a human bone. The uncut version of The Devils is a mind blowing, audacious exploration of ecstasy (both religious and sexual).

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