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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Flavia the Heretic is an undeniable work of art and probably my number
one recommendation to state that the euro-exploitation cinema is
severely underrated and not to be ignored. This is an intelligent and
complex film, beautifully realized and surprise pretty damn
accurate! This is more than just meaningless sleaze or gratuitous
violence and it's about time those prudish film committees who
categorize Flavia as forbidden trash reckon this as well. Flavia is a
beautiful 14th century adolescent, forced to live the life of an
obedient nun in a strict convent. She refuses to accept her being
inferior just because she's female and she curses her fellow sister for
being so tolerant about this. After a fruitless attempt to escape, she
befriends another rebellious nun and she even guides a troop of
bloodthirsty Muslims into the walls of the convent.
Flavia is a downright mesmerizing film! Almost impossible to believe that director Gianfranco Mingozzi managed to make it appear so realistic and so disturbing. I challenge you to come up with a title that centers on the topic of pioneer-feminism more intensely than Flavia does. Several sequences are quite shocking (on the verge of nightmarish, actually) as the camera zooms in on brutal rapes, torture and mutilation. Yet all this raw footage isn't just used to satisfy perverted gorehounds, mind you. I'm strongly convinced that they're part of the statement 'Flavia' is trying to communicate: Humanity (the Catholic Church in particular) historically proved itself to be a hypocrite and discriminating race and there's no use in denying it any further. Films like "Flavia, the Heretic" have the courage to question and openly condemn our precious ancestors and I truly admire them for it. Flavia is an outstanding and fundamental exploitation film because of its substance, but it's even brought to an higher level by the wondrous cinematography, the glorious costumes & scenery and a breathtaking musical score by Nicola Piovani. Florinda Bolkin is very convincing as the ambitious and headstrong nun but it's María Casares who steals the show as Sister Agatha. She's a man-hating and loud-mouthed nun who likes to urinate in the open field! Amen, sister!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(aka: FLAVIA THE HERETIC)
Finally Synapse releases the full, uncut version with the sex, torture and nudity intact. This is supposed to be the ultimate 'nuns in hell' movie, so it deserved a definitive version.
In the 15th Century, Flavia is sent to a convent by her evil father in order to cleanse her soul. She questions why the rules are the way they are and why men have to be in charge of everything. She also questions why nuns are routinely tortured for even the slightest of transgressions.
For instance, in a truly repellant scene, they dip cups of black tar on the stomach and breast of one nun and then cut her burned nipple off. Flavia can't stand any of this so she runs away with a local Jew who is an overseer of her father's dowry to the church. They are quickly caught and sent back to be punished. Flavia gets flogged with a whip while her Jewish companion is held in a dungeon with chains.
Then Flavia takes up with a Moslem commander after an attack on a coastal church, thereby guaranteeing her revenge on the convent. The Moslems rape and pillage the nuns, leaving all of them dead except for Flavia. She also stands by while the Moslems push her father down a hole leading into the torture chamber they used to routinely punished the nuns. The scene where the blond woman climbs into a cow's carcass is classic, although I think Pier Paolo Pasolini did something similar to that in one of his films. No?
In the end, her Moslem lover leaves her behind because she is disobedient, leaving her to her fate at the hands of the surviving Christians who torture her in an obscene manner. You the viewer will have to see it for yourself.
The film does have it's flaws, however. The pace is a little slow-going at times and the battle scenes between the Christians and the Moslems looks amateurish. The Synapse DVD has an interview with Florinda Bolkan concerning her views on feminism and the making of this film. She's aged quite a bit in the last 25 years, although I think she was already in her mid-30s when she made this film.
6 out of 10 for showing some originality in the nun genre.
This is the most notorious of the "nunsploitation" movies but it's also very atypical of the genre (if "nunsploitation" can be called a genre). For one thing it is serious, believable, and fairly historically accurate. For another thing it generally avoids being merely crass exploitation. There is sex and nudity but it is all in the context of the film. There is also A LOT of violence, but it is truly unpleasant and ugly violence--it is obviously not meant to simply titillate the audience. (I actually saw the edited version but I doubt it is any less powerful--what you picture in your mind when you realize what is happening on screen is at least as terrible as anything that could have been achieved with cheesy 1970's special effects). This film could also be considered part of the "rape-revenge" genre except that after the rape and revenge there is in turn yet more revenge against the avenging woman, and each time the violence escalates a little more until all the characters are tainted and the movie ends up being a wholesale condemnation of human cruelty and a powerful statement on the ultimate futility of violence. I'm sure many people will find this movie tasteless or offensive but when you consider how many movies--especially mainstream Hollywood movies--glorify and romanticize violence, presenting it as a valid way to resolve any problem, you truly realize how courageous and refreshing a movie like this is.
In 1400, in Puglia, Southern Italy, the nobleman father of Flavia
(Florinda Bolkan) beheads her lover and locks her away in a seaside
convent. Flavia questions the submissive treatment of women and is
submitted to the repressive Catholic system in the convent. When Flavia
has the chance, she flees from the convent with the Jew friend Abraham
(Claudio Cassinelli). However, they are captured by her father and
Flavia is whipped and Abraham is imprisoned in the dungeons. During the
Musulman invasion of Italy, Flavia becomes the lover of their Muslin
leader Ahmed (Anthony Corlan) and uses him to revenge against the nuns
that have humiliated her and her father.
I was curious to see this 1978 movie of nunsploitation, not because I am fan of this subgenre of exploitation film, but because of the Brazilian Florinda Bolkan. "Flavia, la Monaca Musulmana" is a brutal nunsploitation, associating the usual themes of sexual repression and religious oppression with revenge. There is no historical background and most of the situations are only pretext for nudity, torture and violence. Now I am satisfied but this film is only recommended to very specific audiences since it is very offensive specially for religious viewers. In the Extras of the DVD, there is an interview with Florinda Bolkan. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Flávia, a Freira Muçulmana" ("Flavia, the Muslin Nun")
Too many sources routinely lump this thought-provoking period drama in
part based on historical fact together with the superficially similar
"nunsploitation" which was a mainstay in '70s Euro trash cinema,
overlooking the righteous anger that drives the whole endeavor. Perhaps
coincidentally it was also director Gianfranco Mingozzi's singular
attempt at narrative film-making outside of many well-received
Safely set within a historical context, FLAVIA charts the growing rebellion of an early 15th century Italian nun (Florinda Bolkan's career performance, even surpassing her sterling work in Lucio Fulci's devastating DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING), locked away in convent by her not so nobleman father in a desperate attempt to curb the girl's budding sensuous nature. Wondering why women are relegated to secondary roles at best in life as in holy scripture, she is confronted by ways in which male domination can rupture female lives, inspiring revolt fueled by the ranting of semi-crazed older Sister Agatha (indelibly portrayed by veteran actress Maria Casarès from Marcel Carné's LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS) and - more constructively - by a Muslim invasion. Joining the oppressors and perhaps unwittingly manipulating them to do her bidding, Flavia truly becomes the outcast she already felt herself to be, with expected tragic results.
With its breathtaking widescreen compositions by Alfio Contini, who shot Michelangelo Antonioni's ZABRISKIE POINT, this is an uncompromising and austere account of one woman's fierce yet ultimately futile fight against patriarchal society which allotted her no rights beyond childbearing or whoring as Sister Agatha wryly remarks. A lengthy drug-induced fantasy sequence clearly modeled on Ken Russell's otherwise far more flamboyant DEVILS notwithstanding, the movie turns out relatively stingy in the skin department, making something of a mockery out of its semi-porn reputation. This is a serious work deserving rediscovery and restoration of its unjustly tarnished reputation.
Flavia(Florinda Bolkan of "Don't Torture a Duckling" fame)is locked away in a convent of carnal desires by her father.Tired of all of the sadism she sees around her(rape of a young woman in a pigsty,sexual cravings,horse castration)Flavia decides to run from the convent with her Jewish friend from the outside,Abraham.The two don't get very far before they are captured and then brought back to be tortured and forced to repent.After punishment she joins up with a band of Muslims called the Tarantulas,who had invaded the convent prior and leads a crusade that turns into nothing short of a bloody battle behind the convent walls."Flavia the Heretic" is a well-directed and fairly notorious piece of Italian nunsploitation.The film is slightly gruesome and sleazy at times.The acting is great and the characters are well-developed.Overall,"Flavia the Heretic" is a genuinely moving and intelligent movie with plenty of nudity and gore.You can't go wrong with it.8 out of 10.
There is so much that can be said about this film. It is not your
typical nunsploitation. Of course, there is nudity and sex with nuns,
but that is almost incidental to the story.
It is set in 15th Century Italy, at the time of the martyrdom of 800 Christians at Otranto. The battle between the Muslims and the Christians takes up a good part of the film. It was interesting when everyone was running from the Muslim hoards, that the mother superior would ask, "Why do you fear the Muslims,; they will not do anything that the Christians have done to you?" Certainly, there was enough torture on both sides.
Sister Flavia (Florinda Bolkan) is sent to a convent for defying her father. In the process, she witnesses and endures many things: the gelding of a stallion, the rape of a local woman by a new Duke, the torture of a nun who was overcome during a visit by the Tarantula Sect, and a whipping herself when she ran off with a Jew. The torture was particularly gruesome with hot wax being poured on the nun, and her nipples cut off.
Sister Flavia is bound to continue to get into trouble as she questions the male-dominated society in which she lives. She even asks Jesus, why the father, son and holy ghost are all men.
Eventually, she joins the leader of the Muslims as his lover and they sack the convent. Here is where you see more flesh than you can possible enjoy at one time. But, tragedy is to come. She manages to exact sweet revenge on all, including the Duke and her father, but finds that the Muslim lover treats her exactly the same. She is a woman and that is all there is to it.
I won't describe what the holy men of the church did to this heretic at the end, but it predates the torture of Saw or Hostel by decades.
Nunsploitation fans will be satisfied with the treats, but movie lovers will find plenty of meat to digest.
Reportedy based on actual historical events, this disturbingly violent, bloody, and shocking period epic sustains viewer interest by creating a verisimilitude missing in the majority of films set in a remote era. Ms. Bolkan's portrayal of the rebellious nun is a tour de force. Her gradual transformation in character from an obedient if unwilling complicitor in social injustices of her day is adeptly evidenced by telling sequences: her witnessing of the hated local Duke's casual rapist activity, her forbidden love affair with a Jew, her criminal defection to the invading Moslem forces of the sensual Prince Ahmed (Anthony Corlan) There are some painfully realistic gory sequences (human flaying) in this film that are not for the squeamish, but viewers with strong stomachs and an interest in medieval history should find ample interest. Deserves to be seen, if only as an antidote to Hollywood depictions of the medieval world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Several months back, I watched Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan play the part of a vengeful modern-day nun in the 1978 Italian exploitation film "The Last House on the Beach." As it turns out, though, four years earlier, Florinda had also played the role of a vengeful sister, in the infamous Italian/French coproduction "Flavia the Heretic." This earlier, film, however, takes place around the year 1400, in the Pulia region of southern Italy. In the film, Flavia Gaetani is forced into a nunnery by her monstrous father. She witnesses the ugliness and brutality of the era and, protofeminist that she is, wonders why men have all the power, both in the Church and secular life. She decides to run away from the nunnery, is captured and punished, and ultimately seeks her sexual awakening--as well as her vengeance on the convent and her father--with an army of invading Muslims. Florinda, who appears in virtually every scene in the film, has rarely been better--she is a terrific actress--the picture's lovely and memorable score by Nicola Piovani does much to establish a medieval atmosphere, and director Gianfranco Mingozzi's work here is assured and imaginative. The picture looks very authentic, with excellent attention to period detail; it was largely filmed in the town of Trani, in Pulia, on the Adriatic, near where the actual events of this story transpired. A word of warning to prospective viewers: This is an extremely violent film, featuring fairly graphic depictions of beheadings, various impalements, nipple slicing, equine castration, burning tar torture...not to mention Flavia's stomach-churning ultimate fate. The picture also contains several fantasy segments that would make Bunuel smile with approbation. In all, a serious film that should please not only feminists of all stripes, but also the gorehounds, as well as fans of nunsploitation and Euro horror. A rare interview with Florinda today, an extra on this great-looking DVD from Synapse, is the icing on the cake. Pair this film with 1970's "Mark of the Devil"--another picture that features brutal violence in the name of the Church, and also set hundreds of years ago and to a gorgeous score--for a double feature that may require several glasses of holy wine before venturing in....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Flavia, la monaca muslmana" aka. "Flavia the Heretic" of 1974 is a
truly disturbing and uncompromising piece of Italian Exploitation
cinema that, to a certain extent, follows a somewhat feminist premise
(though the level of sleaze and brutality would probably disgust the
majority of feminists). Set mostly in a convent, and with a nun as the
eponymous central protagonist (great performance by the wonderful
Florinda Bolkan), "Flavia the Heretic" may be referred to as a
'Nunsploitation' film. However, this film differs quite drastically
from the typical Nunsploitation flicks from the time, as it doesn't so
much focus on the nunsploitation elements such as lesbianism, sadistic
lesbian punishments, etc. Personally, I saw more similarities to the
Hexploitation flicks of the time, such as "Mark of The Devil", (even
though this one doesn't treat the topic of witch-hunts), which focus on
the brutal execution of Christian fundamentalism in the middle ages and
early modern period.
Italy around 1600: After witnessing her despotic father behead a wounded Muslim soldier, young Flavia is forced to become a nun in a convent. When her father condemns a fellow nun to a torturous death for a small misdemeanor years later, Falvia's disgust with male violence against women turns into hatred against the despotic church, and she joins a band of Arabic scavengers...
One thing is for sure, "Flavia the Heretic" is not for the faint-hearted, and neither is it for those who want happy endings. Director Gianfranco Mingozzi obviously tried to make his film as realistic and disturbing as possible, especially in its nasty scenes. The many torture- and execution-scenes are extremely disturbing, with skinnings, spikings and other gruesome scenes in explicit detail, the most shocking scene probably being the torture of the young nun quite in the beginning of the film. The violence here is never superfluous, however. After all, this gruesome methods actually were reality in the time the film is set in. The film is very well-made, with realistic costumes, fantastic settings an elegant cinematography and a great score by Nicola Piovani. The stunningly beautiful and great Florinda Bolkan has proved her talent in many great Italian cult-productions (including Lucio Fulci's Giallo-masterpiece "Non Si Sevizia Un Paperino" of 1972). She delivers another great, charismatic performance here, and I couldn't imagine another actress fitting as well in the role as she does. The film has some minor inconsistencies (E.g. why does the rigid church let bizarre cult-followers into convents in the first place). However, it is overall amazing how realistic this film is. "Flavia the Heretic" should definitely not be missed by my fellow fans of Italian Exploitation Cinema. This is a great Exploitation flick overall, though it definitely is a deeply depressing one and therefore should be watched in the right mood. Highly recommended to fans of disturbing exploitation cinema. 7.5/10
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