The devil (film)

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German title The Devils
Original title The Devils
Country of production Great Britain
original language English
Publishing year 1971
length 111 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Ken Russell
script Ken Russell
production Ken Russell
Robert H. Solo
music Peter Maxwell Davies
camera David Watkin
cut Michael Bradsell

The Devils is a British drama film directed by Ken Russell from 1971, which is also counted as a sub-genre of the Nunsploitation film. The screenplay is based on the novel The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley , as well as its stage adaptation by John Whiting , which depict a true story from 1633. In Germany it was released on September 17, 1971.


France in the 17th century. Cardinal Richelieu tries to strengthen his position of power. He convinces King Ludwig XIII. from destroying the fortifications of French cities. He wants to ensure that the Protestants cannot entrench themselves. The king agrees, only the city of Loudun should be spared, because the king is on the floor with the governor of Loudun.

In the meantime, however, the governor of Loudun has died. His successor is the respected priest Urbain Grandier . He has an affair with the daughter of the priest Canon Mignon, while the neurotic and deformed abbess Jeanne is in love with Grandier. She wants to persuade him to become the monastery confessor. When Grandier secretly marries Madame De Brou, Jeanne finds out. This news makes the previously mentally unstable woman completely crazy.

Troops under Baron de Laubardemont reach the city in order, contrary to the agreement between the late governor and the king, to raze the fortifications. Grandier and his soldiers can stop the baron. Grandier forces the baron to wait for a royal order. To this end, Grandier travels to Paris to see the king. In the meantime Jeanne learns that the priest Mignon is the new confessor of the monastery. She tells Mignon about Grandier's secret wedding and his love affairs and accuses him of witchcraft. Mignon thereupon informs the baron of the allegations. Over time, the statements are so deformed that Grandier is accused of witchcraft. The Baron and Mignon go in search of evidence against Grandier.

Laubardemont secures the help of the inquisitor Pierre Barre. Barre has the reputation of a witch hunter who also performs exorcisms . Jeanne lets her nuns testify against Grandier. The inhabitants of Loudun are increasingly following the witchcraft madness, the nuns get into a kind of religious frenzy. The king comes to town disguised as Duke de Condé . He brings a religious relic with which the inquisitor carries out an exorcism on the nuns. The nuns seem to be cured, but the supposed duke reveals that the container for the relic is empty. By proving that the exorcism was only fake, the nuns get into a frenzy again and enjoy themselves in wild orgies.

In this mess, Grandier returns to Loudun with his wife. Both are arrested immediately. Grandier is tortured, but can convince Mignon of his innocence. The judges, put under pressure by the baron, sentenced Grandier to death by cremation. His executioner promises to strangle him before the fire reaches him. But before the executioner can do anything, Barre himself sets fire to the pyre. Mignon, who was unable to save Grandier from the judgment, cuts the ropes, but the convict burns anyway. At the same time, the city walls are blown up and the residents flee.

Barre leaves Loudun. The baron informs Jeanne that the confessor Mignon had been sent to a sanatorium because of senility. He hands her a bone Grandiers. Jeanne is devastated and satisfies herself with the bone. Grandier's wife has been released and is leaving town.


The lexicon of international films describes this film as “bloodthirsty, bombastic-obscene melodrama. [...] An effect-laden and garishly exaggerated 'morals' picture, certainly with some formal and acting qualities, but which shows neither historical nor philosophical consciousness. "

For the cinema magazine Cinema , the film is a "disturbingly drastic, bilious church satire."

The Variety judged: “As if the story itself weren't bizarre enough, Russell inflated historical events with atrocities at the expense of dramaturgical unity. Due to Russell's fast-paced wild staging style, the depictions threaten to drown in the midst of the brutalities. "

Vincent Canby of the New York Times draws the negative conclusion: “The film thrives on its stupid, melodramatic effects. It has little substance and a lot of profanity. [...] Russell reduces the complex drama to a boring piece of pop art. "

Toni Mastroianni of Cleveland Press describes the film as “macabre work”. Again, the lack of substance is criticized.

The TimeOut film guide wrote that the film was an "overloaded adaptation" that came close to a "diabolical comedy".


The Sindacato Nazionale Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani (SNGCI), the professional association of Italian film journalists, awards Ken Russell the Nastro d'Argento for the best foreign film. Russell received the NBR Award for Best Director from the National Board of Review .


The shooting took place in the Pinewood Studios and in the city of Bamburgh in the county of Northumberland instead.

The film was the debut of Gemma Jones. The role of Jeanne was originally supposed to take on Glenda Jackson , but she had already played similar roles under Ken Russell's direction and canceled. Derek Jarman , who later became known as a director, was responsible for the equipment in his first film work. The costumes were made by Shirley Russell, the wife of director Ken Russell. Another family member of the director, his son Alex, played a small, unnamed supporting role as a child at the royal court. The trick technician John Richardson took care of the special effects.

Reactions to the film

The very revealing presentation and the brutality shown caused controversy. Director Russell had to edit the film several times for the release in the different countries. The censorship authorities were particularly bothered by orgy scenes in which nuns abuse a head-high crucifix for masturbation. These scenes were referred to by Russell as "the rape of Christ". While these scenes were being cut in the UK, the cutting material was kept in the USA. Russell himself lamented the editing requirements, which, in his opinion, eliminated a key scene in the film.

Not only the state censorship authorities objected to the film. The Los Angeles Times reports that the film was condemned by the Vatican after it was shown at the Venice International Film Festival . In addition, the resignation of the festival director was requested.

In 2002, the British film historian and critic Mark Kermode discovered lost film material, in particular the "rape of Christ". These scenes were featured in his documentary Hell on Earth . As a result, a restored version of the film was shown by the British Film Institute in 2004 . This version contains the rape scene.


On March 19, 2012, the X-Rated film version was released on DVD by the British Film Institute . The scenes that fell victim to censorship in 1971 and were partially included in the longer version restored in 2004 are still missing here.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The devils. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed May 11, 2019 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  6. ^ The Devils (1971) Notes. In: Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved May 11, 2019 .
  7. The Devils Arise With New X-Rated UK DVD!