Russell's film was adapted from Aldous Huxley's 1952 non-fiction novel The Devils of Loudon, as well as John Whiting's follow-up 1960 play The Devils. They were all inspired by the notorious case of supposed demonic possession in 17th-century France, in which a charismatic Catholic priest, Urbain Grandier, was accused of bewitching nuns. The accusation was trumped up by Richelieu as an excuse to destroy a Protestant stronghold....I had a list of my 5 favorite films that remained the same 5 films for quite a few years, and "The Devils" on the list. What was the rest of the list? Can I remember? "Aguirre the Wrath of God," "My Dinner With Andre," "Mahler," and "It's a Gift." I have had the same 11 films on my Blogger profile list for a long time, maybe going all the way back to 2004. 3 of my old 5 favorites are still on the list. The 2 that are not are Ken Russell films. Ken Russell was really important back in the 1970s and 80s, and I've forgotten about him in the last 20 years. I wonder what sort of impression "The Devils" would make on me now. Or "Mahler." Or all those other fabulous Ken Russell movies we submerged ourselves in, in the isolation chamber of the movie theater.
Russell mentions he was inspired by one particular line in Huxley's book. "The exorcism of sister Jeanne," wrote Huxley, "was equivalent to rape in a public lavatory." Hence the film's vision of Loudon as a pristine, white-stone city and the convent as clad in white tiles.... Russell recalls the film's final shot: "The girl goes up the hill of broken bricks." The girl (Grandier's recently widowed wife) walks over Loudun's ruins into a landscape in which the only objects are posts topped by carriage wheels, on which Protestant corpses turn in the wind. "Polanski is said to have been inspired by that shot for the last scene of The Pianist," [says Russell's wife Lisi Tribble].
Russell then suggests The Devils is a religious film that takes inspiration from his own Catholic faith. "It's about the degradation of religious principles," he says. "And about a sinner who becomes a saint."
April 29, 2011
"Why portray the king as a cross-dressing homosexual who shoots Protestants dressed as birds in his royal park for fun?"
"Because that's exactly as I saw him," answers Ken Russell, looking back 40 years at his truly outrageous film "The Devils."