Director Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Benedetta’ is a French-language biographical drama film that tells the story of Benedetta Carlini, an Italian nun who becomes an important figure in her convent while having a secret affair with a fellow nun. The period film is set in 17th century Italy and based on the non-fiction book ‘Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy’ written by author Judith C. Brown.
The movie deals with themes of faith and devotion with a provocative narrative and raw visual style. As the film approaches its climax, the viewers are forced to question whether the protagonist’s seemingly divine experiences are, in fact, a delusion. In the end, quite a bit is left to the viewers’ imagination, and if you are perplexed by the film’s events, we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Benedetta!’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
Benedetta Plot Synopsis
‘Benedetta’ opens with the arrival of a young Benedetta Carlini at a local convent in Pescia. Her parents wish for Benedetta to be one of Jesus Christ’s brides and serve the Lord. Several years later, Benedetta meets a young woman named Bartolomea. A child from an abusive family, Bartolomea is taken into the convent at Benedetta’s behest. However, the only way the poor girl knows of thanking a person for help is to provide sexual gratification. Thus, she kisses Benedetta.
The attraction between the two women seems to trigger a spiritual awakening within Benedetta, who begins to have visions of Jesus Christ. One day, Benedetta experiences the same injuries as Jesus during the crucifixion. The other nuns at the convent believe it to be a miracle. However, the abbess, Sister Felicita, and another nun, Sister Christina, remain apprehensive of Benedetta’s claims.
Meanwhile, Benedetta’s visions help her rise to the position of the abbess, and her interactions with Bartolomea continue to grow more erotic. Sister Christina tries to inform the convent that Benedetta’s visions are a sham, but her testimony is proven false, and she is punished. Subsequently, she takes her own life. Sister Felicita spies on Bartolomea and Benedetta and sees them using a Virgin Mary statue to sexually gratify each other.
She heads to Florence to inform The Nuncio of Benedetta’s blasphemy. At the convent, Benedetta has another spiritual experience, and people assume God’s Will is being spoken through her. Benedetta claims that Jesus has promised as long as she is alive, the oncoming plague won’t reach Pescia. Shortly after the incident, Benedetta falls cold and seemingly dies.
Benedetta Ending: Is Benedetta Burned? What Happens to Bartolomea?
The Nuncio arrives at the convent and sees Benedetta’s body. Benedetta awakens and claims to have returned from Heaven to save the people of Pescia. The Nuncio does not believe Benedetta and decides to put her on trial. Subsequently, Bartolomea is tortured into confessing her sexual acts with Benedetta. She also reveals the Virgin Mary statue, thus sealing Benedetta’s fate. The priests and nuns prepare for Benedetta to be burned in front of the public. However, Benedetta reveals to the people that the Nuncio has brought the plague to Pescia. The people turn on the Nuncio, and a woman stabs him to death.
Bartolomea rescues Benedetta from the burning pier, and the two women escape. The following morning, they wake up in each other’s arms. However, Bartolomea confronts Benedetta about her visions and divine experiences being a lie. Benedetta maintains that she has done no such thing and decides to return to the convent. Bartolomea warns her that people will continue to question the authenticity of her claims and try to burn her. Benedetta exclaims that God won’t allow that to happen and leaves. The movie ends with a voiceover that reveals Benedetta lived into her 70s.
Ultimately, the final conversation between the two women proves to be a red herring as Benedetta lives a long life, albeit one without much dignity. The ending also fails to unpeel the cover on the true nature of Benedetta’s claims and actions. On the other hand, Bartolomea is left alone, convinced that Benedetta was propagating falsehoods. She is forced to question if their connection was real or if she was merely a pawn in Benedetta’s scheme. The final fates of both characters serve as a poignant commentary on the disillusions of faith and love.
Were Benedetta’s Visions Real?
Early on, the movie establishes that Benedetta holds some mystical powers, evidenced when a bird seemingly shits in the eye of a guard who is tormenting Benedetta’s family. However, since this incident, the movie goes to great lengths to plant various clues that suggest Benedetta’s visions and claims of speaking God’s Will are nothing but a sham.
One such clue is the appearance of a forehead wound after Sister Felicita points out that Benedetta’s injuries do not entirely correspond to those of Jesus due to the lack of injuries to her forehead. A piece of broken glass is also present on the floor when Benedetta gets the forehead cut, strengthening the claim that she gave herself the wound.
Likewise, during the climax, similar injuries appear on Benedetta’s palms. Bartolomea finds Benedetta is holding a sharp object in her hands to inflict those wounds on herself. Therefore, it becomes pretty evident that Benedetta’s stigmata and visions aren’t real. However, some of her divine experiences, such as apparent death and resurrection, are inexplicable and muddle the authenticity of the claims that Benedetta is a sham. Despite the confusion, a pivotal moment sheds some light on the director’s decision to maintain the ambiguity over the matter.
In the end, the Nuncio asks Benedetta whether he will end up in Heaven or Hell. Benedetta replies he is going to Heaven, which the Nuncio believes is false because of his corrupt actions in the past. Sister Felicita burns herself for her role in the entire ordeal, implying that she sought salvation despite suicide being considered a sin during the era.
Through these scenes, the director isn’t trying to question the authenticity of Benedetta’s mystical experiences but is asking the viewers to ponder over their interpretation of God’s Will and how it is conveyed to us. Is it through corrupt religious officials such as the Nuncio, through some mystical events, or through the need for self-salvation? Depending on how one interprets Benedetta’s visions, the answers will differ from person to person.
Read More: Where Was Benedetta Filmed?