The Devils (1971)

In lesser hands, the wild theatrics and camp stylings of Ken Russell’s story of religious persecution and demonic possession in seventeenth-century France would turn The Devils into no more than a fleshy, hysterical romp. But what’s brilliant about The Devils is that Russell achieves a real, serious sense of fear and claustrophobia alongside the ample lunacy. Partly that’s down to Reed's reserved performance – compared, at least, to the madness around him – which means that when his character, Father Grandier, is finally tortured we feel the full horror of corrupt government and wayward religious fervour directed towards him. That said, The Devils is also hugely fun, from Derek Jarman’s immense, overwhelming set design to Vanessa Redgrave’s vulnerable, possessed performance as Sister Jeanne. In March 2012, the BFI finally released The Devils on DVD as part of an impressive two-disc package: a fitting tribute to Russell, who died in November 2011. DC
Dir Ken Russell (Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave)

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