Monday, June 18, 2012

#672. Behind Convent Walls (1978)

Directed By: Walerian Borowczyk

Starring: Ligia Branice, Howard Ross, Marina Pierro

Trivia:  Luciano Tovoli, who also worked behind the camera on Suspiria, was this film's cinematographer

With cinematography by Luciano Tovoli, who worked alongside such noteworthy filmmakers as Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Michelangelo Antonioni (The Passenger), director Walerian Borowczyk’s Behind Convent Walls is a beautiful motion picture, which just so just happens to be about a group of nuns who can't keep their clothes on!

Based on a story in Stendahl’s “Promenades dans Rome”, Behind Convent Walls is among the finest nunsploitation films ever made, with some of the horniest sisters ever to grace the big screen. The Mother Superior (Gabriella Giacobbe) has her hands full with this rowdy bunch, and does what she can to keep their hyperactive libidos in check.

Thank goodness she has her niece, Sister Clara (Ligia Branice), whose piety makes her a role model for the other girls. That is, until the arrival of Rodrigo (Howard Ross), the nephew of the Father Confessor (Mario Maranzana). Having taken up temporary residence at the convent to study in their library, Rodrigo falls head over heels in love with Sister Clara, and she, in turn, harbors some feelings for him as well.

Behind Convent Walls begins innocently enough, with Silva (Alex Partexano), a servant, delivering a side of beef to the convent. The setting is very “old-world”, with creaking wooden doors and long hallways illuminated by natural light. We follow Silva as he carries the carcass into the kitchen, where several of the Sisters are in the process of making bread. Silva even sports dark glasses, placed over his eyes when he first arrived, so that he would not be “tempted” by the Sisters. We then move outdoors to a picturesque garden, where a handful of nuns are tending to the flowers. I was struck by the look of the film in these early scenes, the camera moving freely throughout, revealing colors so brilliant they spill off the screen. At this point in the movie, Behind Convent Walls is nothing more than an exposé of life in a European convent.

Of course, this is all an illusion; a wonderfully realized deception by Borowyczyk and his crew, but a deception nonetheless. Before long, the debauchery will be in full swing!

How kinky does Behind Convent Walls get? Without going into too much detail, here are a few examples of what transpires once the good Sisters let their habits down: One nun, inspired by the beautiful music emanating from the chapel, lies on her back and does leg exercises, her skimpy undergarments failing to completely conceal her most private of areas. But this pales in comparison to some of the other “activities”, including Sister Lucretia’s sexual encounters with a local man she smuggles into the convent; or Sister Martina’s (Loredana Martinez) affair with Silva. There’s also a scene involving a small piece of wood, which breaks through an upstairs window as Silva is chopping branches below, that is gathered up by one of the Sisters and whittled down (with the help of several shards of broken glass) into a dildo. She even tests her new toy, doing so with extreme vigor.

Behind Convent Walls is a rare blend of European arthouse and exploitation sleaze, and proves a shining example of both.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely superb film, and probably the best, in the minor category of nunsploitation.

If you ever have time I'd definitely recommend that you check out Flavia The Heretic, and Nude Nuns With Big Guns.

Steve D. said...

This is a movie I actually showed at the Twisted Spoke (on 18 February 2006).
Here is how I synopsized it:
"Behind Convent Walls" [1977: Italy. Producer: Giuseppé Vezzani. Director: Walerian Borowczyk. Run Time: 90½' {widescreen}]
Featuring: Ligia Branice, Marina Perro, Gabriella Giacobbe, Olivia Pascal, Loredana Martinez, Alessandro Partexano, Paola Arduini, Silvano Bernabei, Stefanio D'Amario
Howard Ross, Rodolfo Del Prá, Mario Maranzana, Brid Cranitch, Mike Morris

I recently learned that Walerian Borowczyk passed away. I suspect you have heard this name. W. Borowczyk directed one of the most notorious “arthouse erotica” movies, "La Beté". Here is another movie he got to make after that one. This one pushes your emotional buttons by setting the movie inside a religious convent. It's another "Nunsploitation" feature. Of import to you and I is that this is the seldom-screened version with genuine explicit activity.

A convent has its seamy underbelly provocatively exposed. Our females are struggling with the dichotomy of servitude to the Lord and exploring their simmering sexuality. We glimpse intimate details of their toil. W. Borowczyk delves upon the facets of a cloistered life to point out how many “spiritual” tasks have carnal, erotic foundations. A fair comparison can be divined between this movie and a women-in-prison exploitation release. But, because he is an auteur, W. Borowczyk gets away with imagery for which Jess Franco & Joe D'Amato would be crucified (oops).

Our nuns' habits are in basic black & white. So watch for all the scenes where a red substance is lensed. The movie has two plot twists which pull out the rug from under you. In the first: A nun somehow becomes pregnant. In the second: Another nun develops the stigmata. Both of these herald a profound change in the daily lives of those in the convent.