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A Commentary on Monxa Mala: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, July 2019

In this installment of Monxa Mala, we’ll offer our analysis of the story. We’re getting literary here so to fully appreciate the visual impact of this drama, purchase the film from Vermeerworks.

Photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent Films and Jac Avila.

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Survival

Each woman in Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala is adept at self-preservation. Martina and Justa do it through silence. Barbara and Lucrecia use their sexuality. Both women identify with their abuser and become Enforcers to avoid the painful end of the whip.

Julia wants to please and coincidentally relishes her punishments meted out by the Father. Essentially, she’s a cultist who symbolizes the faithful sheep (worshipers) who never question. However, her allegiance also has a darker side. Julia is symbolic of both parties in the age-old struggle between the Church and the forces of Satan because she’s willing to dance with the Father, however he is disguised.

Leticia is an independent spirit and the Father is determined to crush her individuality, vowing to “expel those demons that mortify you.” Shackled and awaiting her chastisement, Leticia endures his sanctimonious judgment of her “transgressions” . . . reckless, conceited, proud, arrogant, defiant, unruly . . . just for a start.

As Leticia grimaces under the lash wielded by Lucrecia, the Father calmly tells her, “You are Eve. God’s sentence hangs over all your sex.”

It’s an age-old, time-worn accusation. If left to their own designs, women will disgrace and dishonor the Church. Their curse is the sexual urges they arouse in men, an intolerable situation that calls for action. The best way to stamp out carnal desire, according to the Father’s logic, is to act on it first and then delight in its destruction. In other words, discipline the messenger before disposing of her in a righteous way.

“The cross is a noble punishment,” the Father declares.

The Father sees women as pawns. As God’s representative, he is unsullied, giving him free rein to debase the novices for his personal gratification before justifiably torturing them. We see that with Barbara’s “problem.” It’s taken care of on the rack after she whispers that she might be carrying something of his.

Alive

Leticia’s single-mindedness and her strength are brought to light in the bedchamber where ointment is applied after her scourging. She says with grit, “I will leave this place . . . maybe broken up into pieces, but I’ll leave from here alive.”

Leticia’s pronouncement reverberates through the film as each novice/nun seeks a way to ameliorate her own situation.

The challenge for the viewer is to interpret what “leave alive” means. Is Jac Avila telling us that faith conquers death? Internal strength survives the pain of torture? Church oppression is never final?

Or, is Leticia offering us an undeniable feminist statement, thus transforming Monxa Mala into a feminist film? In other words, is paganism pro-woman because it flies in the face of Church patriarchy?

After all, some nuns get what they want, don’t they. . . ? Which brings us to the malleable Julia.

A Tidy Little Masochist

Julia is central to the film if one considers it to be a sadomasochistic horror tale with enough whipped backs and boobs to fascinate dedicated BDSMers. The novice is itching for her punishments and can mete out a bit of sadistic pleasure herself.

She uses the Father, seducing him in ways she knows will work. Julia confesses she is “a great sinner” who has “sinful thoughts about your Grace.” She fawns at his feet and extracts a kiss from him. The perfect toady. Important because another novice, the whipped Barbara, ends up on the wheel . . .

. . . and Lucrecia will endure the collar, then the rack.

By the way, when he kisses Julia, the Father pulls down her garment to bare her breasts, triggering her sexual excitement.

Julia’s conflation of pain and sex is well noted in the film. When Leticia’s bloody marks are being treated, Julia says, “Did it hurt very much?” Leticia replies, “You would have loved it.”

Later as Julia is being lashed by Barbara’s hand, Leticia walks in and watches with a half-smile. Julia closes her eyes in ecstasy and hardly flinches.

“Your dream becomes reality,” Leticia says with a degree of sarcasm.

“I’m doing my penance with humility,” Julia says softly, “but I don’t feel the pain.” She smiles with smug superiority.

Who is being manipulated here?

Julia is the masochistic delight of Monxa Mala so don’t miss her whipping scene on the ladder. She is arrogant in her own way when she says to the Father that it’s her turn “with the flagellum.” “My wish is to be whipped by your grace,” she declares, so there are no shackles or restraints. This is Julia’s fun and she gets another kiss for her submission.

The scene is back side/front side and a naked Stephanie Vargas is eye candy. We hope to see her in future films.

Beyond the Red Feline series, rarely has the Pachamama/Decadent library captured a better pure masochist on film.

By the way, Julia is a switch of sorts. Using the needle probe, she increases Leticia’s agony when she gets the chance. Just goes to show you that pain lovers can be feisty if the opportunity rises. The needle has a deeper meaning, however. Julia’s fascination with it is a thinly veiled comment on her own raging need for penetration of another sort.

Oh yes, there is something else this moment reveals. Competition and revenge festers among the women. During Julia’s earlier whipping, Leticia pokes her in the ribs with a nail used in crucifixion. Turnabout is fair play, is it not?

Various Sides of a Woman

Writer/director Jac Avila leaves the viewer to decide what the Father means when he references the “big lie” that is making its way around the monastery.

No matter how such a lie is interpreted, remember that each novice/nun in Monxa Mala represents a side of the human condition that is tested by it. Leticia is the rebel who is unrepentant while Julia is the cultist who refuses to question. Barbara is sexual lust and power personified, the opposite of Lucrecia whose pragmatism guides her actions.

Martina and Justa represent the old adage, “the less said, the better.” In Martina’s case, she solves problems. We see that when talk with the Father turns to performing abortions to rid the monastery of its recurring unspoken “problem.”  Lucrecia volunteered for one, Martina informs us.

It’s the big coverup that gets out of control. Except for Leticia who remains defiant and pays with a crown of thorns, the women have sold their souls to the Devil in a bargain driven by necessity. They have forfeited their choices.

Throughout the film, the tension between the Father and Leticia becomes a psychological tug-of-war. He threatens, she resists. As the story moves into its later stages, Leticia becomes the omnipotent power of freedom that sees everything for what it is.

In the final scenes, only the Enforcers, Lucrecia and Barbara, remain on-screen. They are crucified and the Father penetrates them once again, this time symbolically with the needle probe.

Finally the stage is empty of its victims. The Father sits calmly, pleased with his cleansing of the holy order.  The Church is left naked and alone to wallow in its self-righteousness, or so it seems because there is more to this ending.

Some Final Comments

Unlike previous Jac Avila films, there is not much total nudity in Monxa Mala. For some viewers, this will be disappointing.

Only Barbara and Julia get down to complete exposure. The others rely on loin cloths when the action gets rough. From my experience writing in the film industry, directors rarely push actresses to nudity if they are not amenable to that. Respecting boundaries is paramount.

If you are a fan of a girl bound and bare, watch the scenes with Barbara on the wheel . . .

. . . and Julia on the ladder. They are worth the price of the film.

By the way, Daniela Borda and Simonne de la Riva are stars in the making. Both are “hot,” to use a sexually charged term, and their acting is quite good. Daniela has an earthiness and Simonne an air of sophistication that offer contrasting interpretations of what BDSM sexuality is about. Here’s hoping for more of both soon.

Also, Graciela Tamayo and Inces Copa represent a counter-balance to the Father’s debauchery. They are guiding figures whose presence reminds to viewer of the goodness that the Church offers.

As for Mila Joya, this reviewer admits he has an enduring affection for her portrayal of tortured victims in Pachamama/Decadent Films. She has a rich and sensuous resume to her name.

Mila is superb with a quiet, gentle demeanor and a willingness to suffer for her art. Not only is this demure sweetheart talented, but she fills the screen with a body to die for.

Don’t take my word for Mila’s commanding presence on-screen. Check out two previous Jac Avila films that feature her solitary suffering in the chamber of pain. They are Le Marquis de la Croix (reviewed on this blog: April 29-May 5, 2017) and her newest offering, Mila a la Croix.

In conclusion, no commentary on a Pachamama/Decadent production is complete without a final mention of Amy Hesketh. As referenced in Part One, she’s not cast in this film but her presence is evident in the story. And, of course, the whipping scenes carry her stamp. Amy is the standard for the visual feast that is Monxa Mala and deserves a special nod from all of us.

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After rigorous filming and lots of “torture,” the cast enjoys a well-deserved party. Congratulations on a cool and entertaining production!

 

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A Commentary on Monxa Mala: Part One

by Rich Moreland

In this first installment on Monxa Mala, we’ll set the stage for the film.

Photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent films. The Inquisition drawing is from gregfallis.com.

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This latest Jac Avila niche creation celebrates the visual delights that enrich his fan base.  Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala is a variance of the earlier Maleficarum, also a Pachamama/Decadent Cinema offering that tells the story of persecuted lovers who are condemned as witches. Both productions focus on the Inquisition tortures carried out in the name of the Church some five hundred plus years ago.

Amy Hesketh, who appears in the original movie, serves as the executive producer for this update. Amy is not on-screen this time around and her absence is regretfully noted. On the other hand, Amy’s long-time filming compadre, Mila Joya, returns for a role in which she is less a victim, at least on the surface, than a reluctant whip-wielding punisher. More on that later.

Jac Avila is the writer and director of Monxa Mala, scoring another winner for the BDSM horror genre that is his specialty. With enough deviltry to make the story believable, he once again assumes the role of the torturer. What is particular about this film is that Jac is really “a director within a director.” His on-screen persona is commanding the nuns to satisfy his will just as off-camera he is moving the players around on the stage, so to speak.

Speaking of the nuns and novices, Monxa Mala introduces a talented group of female performers whose comeliness is a perfect fit for the dark evils of the dungeon. Their punishments will surely please BDSM aficionados.

Make no mistake, however, there’s more than just “tie ‘em an’ beat ‘em” to this movie. It has psychological implications that reach beyond sadomasochistic themes.

Let’s take an in-depth look at all of this beginning with the characters that occupy the story.

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The Players

Leticia (Simonne de la Riva): The Marquise’s daughter. She organizes a pagan feast that breaks “the sacred silence of the monastery” and is punished for her transgression.

Lucrecia (Mila Joya): The Enforcer. She is loyal to the Father. When he orders a scourging to “correct” a deviant novice, Lucrecia steps in to do his bidding.

Father Agustinus (Jac Avila): The “Mad Monk.” He sets it upon himself to “correct” novices to the holy order when they step out of line. The Father runs the underground dungeon show and loves the art of inflicting pain.

Barbara (Daniela Borda): The sexually-charged novice. She carries a prize the Father bequeathed to her, or rather inside her. Barbara desires to be the Enforcer and accommodates the Father for her own gain.

Julia (Stephanie Vargas): The masochist. Eager for the pain is this novice’s forte. Julia suffers the welts of humiliation with a smile while having a nasty sadistic streak of her own. When it comes to “getting off” on pain—be it receiving or giving—her favorite phrase is, “It’s my turn now.”

Martina (Graciela Tamayo): The quiet observer. Martina intercedes for the tortured souls under the Father’s wrath. But, as they say in politics and crime, she knows where the bodies are buried. “The walls are guarding secrets,” she says.

Justa (Inces Copa): The wrong nun in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because she is loyal to Leticia, she is more of a nuisance than the Father can endure.

The Images

Four images of importance dominate the film. First is the whipping post where the crucifixions are also carried out. It’s a Freudian phallic symbol and central to the male dominance of the dungeon. Leticia’s suffering while manacled to it is the main focus of the film. Later, Lucrecia also spends time there when her usefulness to the Father is finished.

Second is the metal collar. Attached to the post, it immobilizes its victim, holding her in place for her punishment. The circular shape is a Freudian symbol for female genitalia, as is the wheel, of course, and a reminder that the Father controls the most intimate of female parts for his pleasure. When Leticia and Lucrecia endure their tribulations, the collar enforces their submission.

The third is the rack. Its has a depraved attraction for the Father who “treats” the condemned to its misery.

The last major image is the flaming kettle where the branding iron awaits the Father’s bidding. Leticia is its victim. Simply put, the kettle and its hot coals are the fires of Hell awaiting her, at least in the Father’s eyes.

The Back Story

By the Early Middle Ages, the Church’s patriarchal, anti-woman attitude dominated Europe. Though fighting heresy was their major thrust, churchmen had a history of torturing misguided nonbelievers condemned for dancing with the Devil. The abused victims were often the weaker sex vulnerable to Beelzebub’s seduction.

For some holy men, the Church’s tribunal, known as the Inquisition, turned a blind eye to its own sexual licentiousness and sadism that victimized many women. Such was the case with another Lucrecia, a 16th century Spanish girl whose dreams and imaginations were too much for the king. She was charged with heresy, imprisoned and tortured.

Another female was the virgin martyr Saint Leticia whose Spanish cult is celebrated through feasting. According to legend, Leticia was executed along with the virgin followers of St. Ursula in the Early Middle Ages. No surprise then that Leticia in this film is accused of promoting a pagan repast.

It’s worth mentioning that Inquisition tortures were often carried out by the civil authorities who were not subject to the control of the Church. Their barbarity comes from the Roman word for the savage, the non-citizen: the barbarian.

Notice that the novice in Monxa Mala who has not yet taken her vows remains outside of the holy order. Her name is Barbara and she wants to be an Enforcer.

In this film, the Father is a metaphor for the church and uses his dungeon devices to satisfy his personal sexual and sadistic urges. As for the women of Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala, there’s more than accusations of impiety at work here. They are victims of medieval sex trafficking by western civilization’s most stellar institution.

Of course, Maleficarum is a reference to witches and we’re left with the question of a cover-up. Who is the Devil in this story and are the nuns worshiping him?

A Note on the Production

The set for Monxa Mala is a modified version of the underground chamber that appears in other Jac Avila films. Because of its limited size, the stage gets crowded at times.

However, the cinematography is excellent and the camera is adept at placing everyone in the right position for each scene so that none of the visual impact of the story is lost.

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In Part Two, we’ll examine Monxa Mala as a sadomasochistic horror tale.

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