The Devils. Dir. Ken Russell, 1971
The Devils. Dir. Ken Russell, 1971The Devils was based on a book by Aldous Huxley, and is an account of actual events in 17th century France. Director Russell takes the material and gives it his own unique interpretation, and it's a knockout! Russell's films are often visually striking and lush, but with The Devils, the scenery, sets, and general vibe are extreme and over-the-top with lurid detail and color. The sets were designed by Derek Jarman, who a few years later would go on to make his own unique films. The musical score is by Peter Maxwell Davies and gets rather intense at times as the scenes go from wild to outrageous.
Oliver Reed gives an amazing performances as a priest (Urbain Grandier) who is working his own side of the altar with radical views on the church and it's dogma -- in particular, sex and marriage for the clergy. Vanessa Redgrave is equally astounding as a bitter, jealous, sexually repressed, hunchbacked nun (Sister Jeanne) who is obsessed with Grandier.
Behind the scenes political manipulation is at work against Grandier and is subsequently accused of heresy and witchcraft among other things, and an attempt is made to take him down. As a trial and all sorts of outrageous shenanigans ensue, the full scope of depravity and corruption among members of the church, the laity, the crown and those looking to gain power are splayed open for us to witness -- and it's spectacularly presented!
There is sexual depravity, physical torture, criminal abuse of power, all while the church itself is both witness and guilty party to an insane environment that no human should have to conform to. In the end, it's a terrible miscarriage of justice and the ones with the most power once again have their way. One of Ken Russell's finest films.