This erotic adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “The Devils of Loudon” is based on a 17th Century incident of diabolical possession which affected a religious community in France. For Russell the foundations of religious hysteria is in the repressed sexuality, and the feudal heirarchy, of Catholic monastic life. Oliver Reed plays Father Grandier who refuses to collborate with the agents of Louis XIII who are attempting to challenge the power of the traditional clerical nobility. When Grandier is accused of sorcery by the Mother Superior of the Convent in Loudon (Vanessa Redgrave) a show-trial is commenced in which the Convent is exorcised of its “demons”. Russell, whose richly hallucinatory Catholic imagination has always been under-rated by Anglo-saxon critics, is able to give expression to both the pleasure and danger involved in sexuality. This fascinating film, anchored by the sharp spiritual insight of Huxley’s original novel, is one of the director’s best films.
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