[watch] Prime Directives: Sex & Violence in the Films of Paul Verhoeven


Warning: NSFW

Though the films of Paul Verhoeven can be very different from one another – there are steamy thrillers like BASIC INSTINCT, SHOWGIRLS, and his latest, ELLE; sci-fi like ROBOBCOP, TOTAL RECALL, and STARSHIP TROOPERS; period dramas like BLACK BOOK, FLESH + BLOOD; et al – the one thread that ties all of the Dutch director’s work together is his penchant for the perverse, be it of a sexual or violent nature. The films of Verhoeven each have a gratuitous air to them when it comes to shocking and/or offensive material: it isn’t enough to demonstrate that Catherine in BASIC INSTINCT is a hypersexual being through her sexual interactions, but also by the way she behaves in decidedly non-sexual situations like being interrogated on suspicion of murder; or, it isn’t enough to have a cyborg security professional blast copious and large holes in the bad guys, a little toxic-waste face melting is added in to take the violence over the top.

Verhoeven is a tantalizer, he’s a visceralist, if you will, an artist who thrives on making you feel his images, and both of these qualities make him exceptionally talented in conveying aspects of his narrative like character, suspense, and emotion in simple and unassuming gestures like the uncrossing and re-crossing of a woman’s legs. At the same time, no one takes it to 11 like Verhoeven, no one else gets to the limits of expectation and dials it past that, quite like he does.

In the following supercut from Arte Cinema, the most scintillating and disturbing moments from Verhoeven’s films have been edited into a pretty NSFW blend of erotica and bellicosity. In addition to reminding us what a sensational storyteller Verhoeven is, these clips together also reveal that behind the sensation there is a gritty undercurrent that grounds his work in all-too relatable realms.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist