This chapter evaluates the themes prevalent in Ken Russell's The Devils (1973). A key message in The Devils, which creeps up on the audience rather subtly, given Russell's rather unjust reputation as a sledgehammer of a director, concerns the misery and destruction which can result when politics and religion jump into bed together. As the film's final, spectacular shot reveals the ruins of the magnificent city walls shown near the start of the film, the scale of the horror of what has occurred really resonates; these bookends chillingly convey the film's main point. It was Cardinal Richelieu's desire to build a new, centralised (and Protestant-free) France in which, as he puts it to Louis XIII in the opening scene, ‘Church and State are one’, which has led to the destroyed walls of Loudun at the end, and it is clear to see who has blood on their hands. Russell said The Devils was his only political film, and one can just about taste his revulsion at the unholy marriage that has occurred between Church and State; the film presents a compelling argument for the separation of the two entities, which eventually came to pass in France in 1905.
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