Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Walerian Borowczyk.

Starring Ligia Branice, Howard Ross, Marina Pierro, Gabriella Giacobbe.

Drama, Italy, 95 mins, cert 18.


Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Arrow Video on 29th April 2024.


The nun has become a popular figure in movies again in recent times, what with THE CONJURING universe desperately trying to make a new horror icon with their demonic sister, and THE OMEN franchise being rebooted to a fairly positive reception.


But the nuns in Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk’s BEHIND CONVENT WALLS are a different breed entirely, as these creatures of habit are not monsters or naive young innocents trying to prevent the end of the world. In fact, if you didn’t know any better (and possibly use your imagination a little), these naughty nuns could have come straight out of a 1970s British sex comedy, as in the first few minutes they are having a wonderful time dancing, playing music and a few of them are even having a little half-naked fumble in the confessional booth. It is such a joyous little scene that you wouldn’t be surprised if Robin Askwith stuck his head through the door and asked if he could have a cuppa.


However, this is a Walerian Borowczyk movie and so the debauchery on show gets very graphic very quickly, with nuns cavorting with the local handyman, each other and a rather large phallic object with a picture of Jesus on it, so you can guess who Borowczyk is taking a potshot at with his text, both sub and literal, although the target of his commentary seems to be authority in a general sense rather than the church per se. Power corrupts, in all of its forms, but framing this worldview in a convent  and having the nuns rebel against their strict Mother Superior is a much more titillating and exciting way of getting your point across than making, say, an office-based political thriller.


With no real story to speak of, BEHIND CONVENT WALLS is literally 95 minutes of nuns – who already have a grasp on what it is they are forbidden from doing and know exactly how to get away with it – sneaking around and not being caught by the Mother Superior and the Father Confessor. There is some vague plot thread about a poisoning, but it doesn’t really matter, as despite the seedy nature of the movie Walerian Borowczyk dresses everything up in a fancy arthouse way, from soft lighting and a jovial energy that highlights the comedy element more than you normally get from 1970s Euro-sleaze, to hanging on to sensual images a little longer than is necessary, resulting in a movie that looks fantastic – the cinematographer was Luciano Tovoli, who also shot Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA - and will appeal to fans of cult European cinema. However, if you are looking for something a little more horrific to get your fix of evil nuns doing evil things then BEHIND CONVENT WALLS is more of a palate cleanser, albeit a light-of-tone and very sexually explicit one.


Chris Ward.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans