Religion can be one of the most wonderful and enriching parts of human existence.† Religion can bring caring people together so that they experience love and concern for others and their souls can rise to greater heights.†
But religion is also dangerous.
The Devils is a movie that helps you appreciate just how dangerous religion can be.† It is based on events that really happened in 1631 France.† Aldous Huxley wrote the book on which the film is based.† His book is entitled: The Devils of Loudun.† Loudun is the town in France where the events occurred.† The King is trying to unite his country and wants to tear down the protective walls of Loudun and other cities so that they are more dependent upon the central government.† The leading priest of Loudun is resistant to this and therefore others plot his destruction.
The priest (played by Oliver Reed) is easily attacked, as he is a well-known lecher who has had numerous relationships with women despite the fact that it is in violation of his vows as a Catholic priest.† However, as he points out, nothing in Christís teachings says he cannot have a wife---after all, the apostles were married.†† They accuse him of sexual misconduct with the local nuns as well as with other women.†† But what it worse, he is accused of commerce with the devil, an accusation that is very very hard to disprove.† If you believe that people beat their wives (consort with the devil) and you accuse a person of beating their wife, how does that person prove beyond any doubt that they are innocent?† Remember, it may be hard to prove that someone is guilty, but it is very very hard to prove that you are innocent.† No reasonable doubt exists.† You have to prove innocence, total innocence.† Which, tragically, is impossible to do even for someone that is completely innocent.
Vanessa Redgrave plays the role of the mother superior of the nuns.† She is in love with the priest but is not having an affair with him.† But, out of jealousy, she accuses him anyway and since the authorities want to get rid of the priest, they readily accept her accusations.† When she later tries to recant, that is only proof that the devil is still influencing her.
The bottom line: They burn the priest alive at the stake in the middle of town.
Ken Russell directed, wrote the screenplay, and produced this vivid, outrageous, and at times close to pornographic view of religion gone amuck.† The film was released in 1971 to the praise of critics.
Russell created this film as a way of warning us about the dangers of both organized religion and government.† These twin forces have been the source of tremendous pain for humankind.† They have also been the source of great progress and joy.† The key to maximizing the benefits and minimizing the pain is balance.† The key is avoiding fanaticism.†