UK movie (1971). Warner/Russo. Pr Ken Russell, Robert H Solo. Dir Russell. Spfx John Richardson. Screenplay Russell. Based on The Devils (play premiered 1961) by John Whiting (1917-1963) and The Devils of Loudun (1952) by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963). Starring Michael Gothard (Barré), Gemma Jones (Madeline), Christopher Logue (Richelieu), Murray Melvin (Mignon), Vanessa Redgrave (Sister Jeanne), Oliver Reed (Grandier), Dudley Sutton (Laubardemont). 111 mins. Colour.
Spared by a whim of Louis XIII, Loudon alone stands for religious tolerance in the France of the early 1630s; its priest, Grandier, is its symbol. To destroy this haven of liberality the State and Church must destroy Grandier, and he has made enemies enough that a charge of heresy would seem supportable: he conducts a dissolute lifestyle, and Mother Jeanne of the contemplative Order of the Angels hates him because she lusts for him. The State's catspaw, the Baron de Laubardemont, orchestrates the campaign: under the persuasion of witchfinder Barré, Grandier's assistant Mignon confesses (sincerely) that he believes Grandier possessed (> Possession) by the Devil, while Jeanne's erotic fantasies are translated into visitations by an Incubus and, in terrified hysteria, her nuns cavort obscenely for lust of Barré himself (who resembles a rock star fighting off groupies). Grandier at last discovers his God through his love for a pure woman, but is burnt at the stake; only Mignon realizes at the last that in reality it is the City – not its bricks and mortar but its self – that is being consumed. This exemplary Christian Fantasy explores how rigid-mindedness – in this instance worship-inspired – causes us to create Gods and Demons in our own image. [JG]