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Review: The Devils (1971)

The Devils (1971)

Directed by: Ken Russell

Premise: A local priest (Oliver Reed) is accused of witchcraft by government officials when he resists the attempts of the powers that be to integrate his community into 17th century France.

What Works: There are some very strong performances here by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. There have been a number of films dealing with sexuality and members of the cloth, but this film really delves into the psychology of the characters and gives very sophisticated portrayals without simply condoning or condemning their actions. The film balances the intimate stories with the larger historical issues very well and illustrates the power relationships and the political maneuvering in ways that are easily understandable. 

What Doesn’t: Some of the film’s surrealistic aspects look very dated and are sometimes distracting from the narrative. However, they do give the film a unique look that is very different from stereotypical costume dramas.

DVD extras: Not currently available on DVD. VHS copies are available at most video stores, however.

Bottom Line: The Devils is a very good example of how a film motivated by ideas or a concept can be done right by properly dramatizing the events. Some of its explicit sexuality may make it uncomfortable to sit through but that is the key strength of The Devils. History is not pretty and The Devil’s is not afraid to expose some of its ugliness.

Trivia: The film was initially banned in Italy and Finland.

Episode: #24 (October 24, 2004)