A young woman named Magdalena retrieves a postcard that had been cast into the wind by her biological mother (Bulle Ogier) from a seaside town in Portugal and discovers that she has a twin sister named Maria.
Scenes are the heaven, the hell and the court of pope Alexander VI alias Rodrigo Borgia in the year 1495. Godfather, a senile old fool, his debile and sick son Jesus Christ, and slutty Marie, who has a relationship with the devil, get message about the scandalous events on earth, especially the orgies celebrated at the court of the pope. They make up a plan to punish humankind directly after having had sexual contact, but so that they stay capable for salvation. The devil gets the job to find out a successful poison. He creates syphilis and fathers together with Salome, the most intriguing girl in hell, "the woman" who will infect with her disease first the pope, then the cardinals and finally the rest of the church hierarchy.
"Das Liebeskonzil" ("The Council of Love") was written by the German psychiatrist Dr. Oskar Panizza (1853-1921) who was sentenced for publishing his play to serve one year of hard prison because of blasphemy. Panizza was found guilty in 93 points, and this did not happen in the Middles Ages, but in Germany of the end of the 19th century. After having been released from prison, Panizza was a broken man who should end later in a psychiatric clinic. Panizza already portraited a human-like "Saint Family" in his story "Das Wirtshaus zur Dreifaltigkeit" ("The 'Trinity' Inn"), and what he attacked was not the belief itself, but the catholic custom of religious anthropomorphism and multiplication of the Christian trinity into three persons. In his speech of defense before the court, Panizza also mentioned that he followed in his play exactly the historical truth concerning the rise of syphilis and the events at the court of Alexander VI, but in vain.
When Jes Petersen newly edited the Council of Love in 1962, he was arrested by the police, his house was searched and he was accused of having published pornographic writings. The premiere of the Council of Love was therefore only in 1967 - 74 years after the play appeared - under the direction of Jorge Lavelli in Paris. When Antonio Salines (who plays the main role in Schroeter's film) put the play again on stage, in 1981 in Rome, a scandal broke out in Italy. In 1985, the highest Tyrolian courthouse forbade Panizza's play because it allegedly insults Christian religion. Shortly after, Werner Schroeters movie - in which the pornographic scenes are let away - was banned in Austria, and in 1994, the European Courthouse in The Hague confirmed this decision. As one sees, Oskar Panizza, whose literary and philosophical work is almost forgotten - despite a renaissance in the 80ies -, keeps to be provocative - and as John Le Carré wrote: It is only provocation that makes the human think.
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