I can't believe I'd not watched this before, it's an excellent, if strange film. Oliver Reed plays an eloquent and sex loving priest. He acts as the leader of his town that has known peace and prosperity, but when he protects the town's famous walls he makes powerful enemies. He's accused of being in league with the devil by a spurned nun.
It sounds absurd and in many ways it is (although it is based on events of the time), the film has an almost pantomime feel with the French court and the machinations of the church. The early part of the film establishes the priest as urbane, but a reasonable man set against the horrors of the plague sweeping through the town.
When he's accused of working for the Devil things take a more sinister turn. For me Oliver Reed steals the show, his performance in this is superb, he is given a run for his money by the inquisitor who is over the top with his zeal, but it's the priest's strength during the trials that gives him the crown.
Mention of Vanessa Redgrave's performance as the nun obsessed with the priest should also be made, while it doesn't stand out as much as the lead's, it does work well.
As I said at the start it is an odd film, for it's age it's a very sexual film and the sheer craziness of it all is a juxtaposition to the horror of what is happening. I appreciated how effective the torture scenes were without the modern tendency to show you everything, for me it has greater impact that way. An excellent and disturbing film to watch.
THE DEVILS (Special Edition)
A film by Ken Russell
In seventeenth-century France, a promiscuous and divisive local priest, Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), uses his powers to protect the city of Loudun from destruction at the hands of the establishment. Soon, he stands accused of the demonic possession of Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), whose erotic obsession with him fuels the hysterical fervour that sweeps through the convent.
With its bold and brilliant direction by Ken Russell, magnificent performances by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, exquisite Derek Jarman sets and sublimely dissonant score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Devils stands as a profound and sincere commentary on religious hysteria, political persecution and the corrupt marriage of church and state.
Finally available on DVD for the first time, The Devils is presented in the original UK X certificate version with a host of new and exciting extra features.
The Devils is available from Amazon (and is an excellent film)