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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
Peel back the layers of exploitation and there's an interesting film here
One of the more notorious films to come out of the 'nunsploitation' sub- genre, Flavia the Heretic is certainly a curious oddity, obeying the traditions of the genre with titillation and torture, while at the same time producing moments of art, exploring themes such as feminism, religion and sex. It tells the story of a 14-century nun, Flavia Gaetani (Florinda Bolkan), who after being placed into the church by her overbearing father, embarks on a journey through a world dominated by men. She witnesses one of her fellow nuns being brutally tortured after losing her way during a visit from the 'tarantula sect', sees rape at the hands of powerful men, and is even captured and whipped by her own father.
After the Moslems invade, Flavia falls in love with one of their leaders Ahmed (Anthony Higgins) and the two start a love affair. Returning to her convent, Flavia, with a band of Moslem warriors behind her, wreaks revenge on all those who have wronged her and succumbs to an orgy of sex and violence. It is here, within the last forty minutes where the film certainly ignites the interest. The juxtaposition of sexual violence (which includes male rape and sex with swords) with the violence is quite disturbing in the same way as Pasolini's Salo (1975) was, but came out the year before. Pasolini's controversial movie is by far a better film, but Flavia did surprise me with its world cinema attitude and scenes of almost avant-garde strangeness (a naked woman crawls inside a hanging animal carcass as the violence explodes around her).
Although I would say it is unfair to label this as simply 'exploitation', the film does succumb to the Grindhouse audiences desire for cheap thrills. The endless array of 1970's flesh does become tiresome in the first half, where the events that are supposed to be developing Flavia's feelings of injustice come across as nothing more as an excuse to get more tits on the screen. This causes the majority of the first film to be extremely slow-moving and often quite tiresome. Yet overall, when you peel back the layers of exploitation, there is an interesting movie beneath that does a lot with its apparent small budget, just as long as you can stomach scenes of sexual mutilation and human skinning.
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