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 (see 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]