Paul Verhoeven to Direct ‘Blessed Virgin,’ Based on True Story of Lesbian Nun

Paul Verhoeven'Elle' film photocall, Rome, Italy
Laura Antonelli/REX/Shutterstock

Paul Verhoeven’s next project will be “Blessed Virgin,” which will see the director re-team with producer Said Ben Said and actress Virginie Efira from “Elle” on a film about a lesbian nun.

The new French-language project was revealed late Tuesday night in a tweet by Said and confirmed by production company SBS on Wednesday.

In “Blessed Virgin,” Belgian actress Efira, who had a key role in “Elle,” will play a 17th-century nun who suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. A companion is assigned to assist her through these visions, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic affair.

The film is based on a 1986 book by Judith C. Brown, “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.” Based on candid archival documents, “Immodest Acts” tells the true account of the rise and fall of Sister Benedetta Carlini, abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God in the early 1600s, whose claims to have had supernatural contacts with Christ provoked an investigation by church authorities. The investigation concluded that she had faked her visions and uncovered evidence of a lesbian affair with another nun.

“Blessed Virgin” also re-teams Verhoeven with writer Gerard Soeteman for their 10th feature collaboration. The pair first worked together on Dutch television adventure series “Floris” in 1969. Soeteman went on to become the director’s regular collaborator until Verhoeven’s move to the U.S. with 1987’s “Robocop.” Two decades later, the pair reunited when Verhoeven returned home to direct 2006 hit “Black Book,” which won the Young Cinema Award for best international film at that year’s Venice Film Festival.

SBS Distribution will present the new project to buyers at the Cannes Film Market in May.

“Elle” premiered in competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and went on to win Golden Globes for lead actress Isabelle Huppert and best foreign language film. Huppert also received an Oscar nomination for her role.