Our Lady of the Turks
April 1, 2012
Directed by Carmelo Bene. With Carmelo Bene, Lydia Mancinelli, Anita Masini
Italy 1968, 35mm, color, 124 min. Italian with English subtitles
Bene’s first feature film is an adaptation of his novel of the same name, published in 1966 and subsequently transferred to the stage. Bene himself compared the book to Huysmans’ À rebours, which catalogues the manias of a decadent aesthete. In Bene’s case, the protagonist’s obsessions are obscurely derived from the invasion of the southern coastal town of Otranto by Turkish forces. The character (or perhaps characters) played by Bene is haunted by visitations from Saint Margaret, to which he reacts, variously, with panic, ardor and erotic attraction. In keeping with Bene’s aesthetic of interruption and amputation, dramatic action and narrative threads are waylaid and eventually dropped. The film is a savage send-up of the weight of history and the ridiculous importance of the self.