Dangerous Beauty (1998)

Reviewer: Shannon H.

 

If anyone has taken a world history course in high school or college, they would know something about the Renaissance. It was a period during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries where artists, poets, philosophers, and writers brought back art techniques, philosophy, and writings from ancient Greece in a "rebirth," hence the name Renaissance (which means "rebirth"). There are a few different types of this movement: the Italian Renaissance, the Spanish Renaissance, and the Northern Renaissance but that isn't relevant to the film; I just put that in for fun.

The film takes place during the Italian Renaissance, in the "age of courtesans." Despite being married men from the aristocracy would often go to a courtesan for "services" (a courtesan is like a prostitute, but they are from the middle to upper class). Morality was not an issue during this period of time when people turned to Christian-humanist teachings (rather oxymoronic, I might add) rather than to Biblical morality. Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell) is a married Venetian aristocrat who has eyes for another woman, Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack). Unfortunately, both cannot get married because Marco is already married and Veronica can't come up with enough money for a dowry. They soon part ways romantically but manage to stay friends.

Veronica's mother Paola (Jaqueline Bisset) gives Veronica two career choices. She could either be a nun or a courtesan, "servicing" the men of the middle and upper class societies and getting paid big money for it. Veronica visits a nunnery to get a glimpse of what life would be like. She is soon turned off by it and decides to become a courtesan. Being a former courtesan herself, Paola teaches her daughter everything from table manners to poetry to literature to sexual practices. Veronica ends up becoming one of the most popular "service women" of high society, being able to write poetry, read and quote literature, and attend to the pleasures of adulterous older men. Her old boyfriend, Marco, finds out about her reputation and the two of them eventually get back together while the Catholic Church accuses her of witchcraft and being the source of the plague that has recently hit Venice. Veronica must stand up to the Inquisitors of the church and defend her case.

The sexual content in the film is beyond extreme. In fact, there's probably more sex in this film than in Dangerous Liaisons. Veronica Franco is seen having sex with an older man (both are nude) and with Marco twice (still unclothed). It's also implied that she slept with a Catholic priest and a French king (King Henry II) known for having perverse sexual tastes. There is a lot of sexual dialogue and implications of oral sex. Along with the sexual content is some sexual dialogue and references. There is also profanity, including three f-words, and violence involving warfare (Marco is seen warding off invaders on ships with his sword). There is very little spiritual value to this film. The Catholic Church is viewed as a nuisance and Biblical values are frowned on (however, I don't condone inquisitions performed by churches). While being tried by the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church, Veronica says that free sex is a gift from God, who loves us very much. Even the wives of the husbands who have been with courtesans defend their adulterous activities.

 

Veronica is correct that God loves us but He did not bestow free sex as a gift to us. It's true that God invented sex but it is strictly for married couples (you could say that sex is God's wedding gift to a married couple).  Adultery is inexcusable under God's Word. It's also one of the Ten Commandments. For those who believe Catholicism is un-Christian, then the film might be considered offensive. I liked the way the film was made and the background music. It was okay up to a certain point and then lost its touch with pointless, graphic sensuality. I had to watch this for a history course in college and ended up covering my eyes during most of the objective content. This film does not have any redeeming value whatsoever. It doesn't bring up the fact that a courtesan sleeping with different men puts her at a higher risk for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (in the film, Veronica is given a special drink as a contraceptive and an old, wheelchair-bound aristocrat is shown having sores all over his legs and feet, implying that he might have an advanced case of syphilis). It should be avoided or seen through one of those video editing services. 


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