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Italy 1600: A convent of nuns are invaded by the Tarantula Sect on their annual pilgrimage. The cultists defile the place of worship, orgying in the chapel and desecrating the altar. One nun decides she can't take the religious oppression any longer and flees the convent upset that all the leaders are male. Written by
A very good example of an exploitation film with a serious point
A young woman is sent to a nunnery by her domineering father in 15th century southern Italy, while there she is subject and witness to many atrocities. She later flees and becomes the lover of the leader of an invading Muslim army and with his muscle underpinning her; she enacts grisly revenge on those who have wronged her.
Flavia the Heretic is one of the prime examples of the sub-genre known as nunsploitation. Along with The Devils (1971), it combines some serious drama along with gruesome exploitative material. Although it could be argued that in both of these films the nasty scenes are pretty necessary in reflecting the grimness of their respective stories. Both films look at the dubious actions of the church in the middle ages but Flavia more specifically has a feminist outlook as well and considers the role of women at that time. Consequently, this is an unusually serious minded bit of nunsploitation. It is considerably helped in this regard by a standout turn from the always impressive Florinda Bolkan in the lead role. She essays the emotional story arc of Flavia quite expertly and certainly elevates the drama of the story. This is a very interesting central female character of a type you don't see very often leading a movie, especially in a film of this type.
In regards to the more visceral aspects, there were a few very grim scenes of torture and graphic excess, including a borderline unwatchable castration of a horse and a gruesome climax. Some of the horrible scenes have a definite overall point though, such as a sequence where a rich and decadent duke rapes a servant girl in a pig sty. It's a scene that illustrates the way that women were treated like animals by the ruling classes who were at liberty to act as they saw fit. On the whole, Flavia the Heretic is an Italian genre film with a more art-house sensibility than was typical. It provides both vicarious thrills and something to actually think about. And that's not a bad achievement really.
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