This chapter discusses the historical context of Ken Russell's The Devils (1973), as the timing of the first appearance of the film is of great importance in a way which spreads out way beyond the confines of the cinema screen. Despite its firm seventeenth-century setting—and its ongoing relevance—The Devils is very much a film for 1971, and its ideas about spirituality said much about the time in which the film was released. Uncomfortable parallels could also be made with the Troubles in Northern Ireland; this conflict, for which both politics and religion provided much of the fuel, had been underway for some time when The Devils was released. And with the world only starting to recover from the Manson murders, which were deemed to have been committed in order to ignite a race war, the film also served up a scarcely needed reminder of the case's chief bogeyman in the form of Father Barré. Audiences in 1971 certainly had plenty to think about, and The Devils did not provide an easy evening of escapism. The film had much to say to the audience of its time, and the vexatious nature of its message endures to the present day.
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