Never mind politics, economics is where you may find really strange bedfellows. In the Italian film Beate (which translates to “Blessed”), from Samad Zarmandili, two very different groups of women join forces to try to stave off the greed around them.
The first group of women are the workers at the Veronica lingerie factory. When the owner abruptly closes the factory, planning to open a new one in Serbia with cheaper labor, the women, led by their forewoman Armida at first picket, but then sneak out the equipment and fabric to make their own line.
The other group is the nuns of the “Convent of the Holy Mantle”. The nuns are renown for their embroidery skills that were developed by their founder the Blessed Armida (yes, the Armida in our story was named after her) 700 years ago. City inspectors come and announce that the building must be repaired. The Bishop will not promise funds. He and the mayor (who also owns the factory) plan a new resort in the place of the convent. When the women of the factory propose a joint venture using the nuns’ embroidery to enhance the lingerie, the young, inexperienced, temporary mother superior sees it as the only way to save the convent.
This is a film with a fairly simplistic view of social economics. Both groups of women are seen as dispensable. For those who are running the town, it is all about profits. Whether workers or nuns are displaced is of no importance. Such is unbridled capitalism. It would have made the film more satisfying if the final solution to the issues had been based in the value of the people, rather than finding a new way of making money—especially since in this case it is exploitive of religion.
Comedy is something that often doesn’t travel well. I think that is often true with Italian comedy, which tends towards farce. In this film, the characterization of the nuns seems especially stereotyped. The main contact we have with them is Armida’s aunt, who is something of a fanatic about adoration of the mummified body of the order’s founder. Most of the nuns are just background to what is going on. The interactions between the two groups of women was a possibility for some important themes, but wasn’t developed.
Beate is available on virtual cinema.
Photos courtesy of Corinth Films.