Cast & Crew
Italy 1600: A convent of nuns are invaded by the Tarantula Sect on their annual pilgrimage. The cultists defile the place of worship, orgying in the chapel and desecrating the altar. One nun decides she can't take the religious oppression any longer and flees the convent pissed off that all the leaders are male.
Flavia the Heretic - Art Film or Trash Classic?
Flavia is played by Florinda Bolkan, identified by The Psychotronic Video Guide as the Brazilian-born star that claimed to have been JFK's last lover. The setting for the film is loosely based on Muslim clashes with Christianity around the 15th century but it is Flavia's fight against patriarchal corruption that provides the main attraction. First Flavia is traumatized by her father (a decapitation is involved). Then she is sent to a convent (wailing cult members are involved). Flavia is also witness to torture and rape (pigs are involved). So she decides to run off with her Jewish friend (thankfully no pigs are involved). After being caught and whipped, the Moslems attack and Flavia suddenly has the upper hand and is able to exact revenge (thus bringing to mind the alternate title of The Rebel Nun - but it's a fleeting moment that ends badly (and graphically). Fans of the inexplicable can also ponder a supporting role by Maria Casares as Sister Agatha. Casar - who starred in such films as Children of Paradise (1945), and Orpheus (1949) and is pointed out by Chris Fujiwara (writing for Hermenaut) as "probably the most distinguished actress ever to appear in an Italian exploitation film.")
The accomplished cinematography is by Alfio Contini, who worked on The Night Porter that same year and has a prolific lensing career with such highlights as Zabriskie Point (1970) and the recent Ripley's Game (2002). The soundtrack by Nicola Piovani (who would later win an Oscar for his score to Life Is Beautiful in 1999) is exceptional. With these talents and solid production values, it's not hard to see why Flavia the Heretic gets caught in so many cross-fires; on one hand it's really trying to be a cross-over art-house message picture, and on the other hand it's a lurid exploitation film with incredibly unpleasant and sadistic images. Serious viewers can dismiss the film as crass, while crass viewers can just as easily dismiss it as too serious. It just goes to show how hard it is to please and disgust everybody at the same time, but Mingozzi ascends and descends to the occasion.
Synapse Films dvd release of Flavia the Heretic presents the full "director's cut" in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio and includes a still gallery, liner notes, and a video interview with Bolkan, who supports the film as having a strong feminist message.
For more information about Flavia the Heretic, visit Synapse Films. To order Flavia the Heretic, go to TCM Shopping.
by Pablo Kjolseth