Sacred Flesh

In an unspecified time in the past, the stress of sexual repression becomes too much for Mother Superior, whose hysterical raving threatens the existence of the convent.  Locked away, she imagines Mary Magdalene, a death nun, and a diseased figure arguing over purity and sin while she recounts the erotic confessions of the other nuns.

I find some entertainment value in Sacred Flesh just because it has so much to offend zealous church-goers.  There are naked nuns, masturbating nuns, lesbian nuns, S&M nuns, a nun being molested by priests, and a topless, female Christ on a cross.  That’s the sort of thing that makes me whistle my day away.

But all is not well in this reasonably graphic nunsploitation opus, as there is a lot less hot nun action than there is talking, and there is a lot more of both of those than plot or character development.  These are chatty nuns who’ve skipped the vow of silence.  Mother Superior talks to Mary, a nun with a death-head’s mask, and some twitchy green girl.  Meanwhile the Abbot and the Abbess walk around the garden waxing philosophical.  The topic is chastity and repression, and no one has much to say about it, but they say it a lot.

Sacred Flesh is the strange mating of a junior college experimental play and a playboy softcore video.  I doubt if fans of either (are there fans of junior college experimental plays?) will be satisfied.  Like a stage drama, everyone tends to stay in a confined area and do nothing but talk, and what they say could be pulled out of a freshmen psychology discussion groups (of non-majors only; it isn’t deep enough for people who are serious about the profession).  This is where the filmmakers went wrong.  They think that this is the legitimate part of the film, where actually it is the salacious moments that elevate the production.  The discussions drag horribly, telling us that repressed sexuality is not good for women and can cause psychological distress.  That’s about it.  Sigh.

The topless nuns are brought out episodically.  They do their thing and then disappear, never giving any indication of who they are.  I suppose there is a positive side to that as these girls are very attractive, but there is no reason to assume they can act (not that those with speaking parts are a credit to the profession; the males are particularly poor, fitting again with the feel of a junior college production).  If you are a fan a beautiful nuns in the throws of ecstasy (and who isn’t?), much of the gyrating will make you smile, but unfortunately, the sensuality is always undercut by yet more interspersed gabbing.  There’s some humor in the un-nun-like appearance of these sisters.  Sure, the genre dictates they be babes, but these women wear extensive makeup, trim their pubic hair, and in one case, has a navel ring.  Were piercings big during the Spanish Inquisition?  I suppose yes, but usually not done willingly.

To make time for the never ending chatter, what little story elements popped up early in the film are dropped.  There is a horny stable boy and a willing wench who meet, walk around, and then exit the story.  There is a young girl who steals some food and then runs off (apparently, she was meant to be a scantily clad girl that the priest could lust after, which would have given the scene purpose, but that isn’t how it was shot).  And then there is the Abbot.  He is sent a note to come deal with the deranged Mother Superior.  So we get to see him tell the stable boy to get his horse, ride, stop for lunch, arrive at the convent, and then meet the Abbess to discuss the situation.  And that’s it.  He never meets Mother Superior, or even enters the convent building.  There is no reason for him to be in the movie.

Yet, I can’t entirely dismiss Sacred Flesh.  Those nuns are lovely, and the nude female Jesus is a thing of beauty.  There are frames, when her head is down and her crown of thorns gives her a halo, and when blood is running over her breast, that could be pulled out and exhibited as fine art.  The warm, highly red-filtered lighting helps there, and in many other scenes.  The sets are almost as attractive.  A grand estate is used for the exterior shots and shows why British low-budget filmmakers have an advantage over their U.S. counterparts: us Yanks don’t have stunning architectural locations to work with.

So, poor acting, no plot, and dull, simplistic, faux-artsy debates verse impeccable use of color, attractive scenery, sexy naked “nuns,” and a few stunning scenes.  Perhaps Sacred Flesh works best as background.  Toss it on when you are reading and look up from time to time to see if something pretty is onscreen.  That way it doesn’t matter who these girls are supposed to be, only that they are naked…and nuns.