The point here is that Hitchcock, Argento, DePalma are all going to be referenced here, sating our lust for garish colors, ostentatious camera, feverish sexuality, while the piss is taken - in true Verhoeven style - of every attempt at symbolism ever in this type of film.
But let’s just not mince words about this, I think Verhoeven would prefer it this way. Because even though he intended this as a kind of farce set up for the critics, the thing has genuine appeal for most people.
It is no longer dangerous as might have been felt to be at the time, no longer quite an insane stylistic bravura. Since then we’ve had Cronenberg and Lynch, who delved deeper and subverted more slyly. Since then Verhoeven has delivered more biting satires. And if you insist on some ironic appreciation, prior to this we had Polanski and the Italian giallo, where you could read the feverish psychosexual histrionics as your own campy rendition knowing that you were not simply playing at the hands of a smarmy filmmaker.
So what is left is a kind of update on Les Diaboliques. The caveat: how much of the lurid sexual fantasy that we’re caught into is being hallucinated by the imaginative writer and how much of it actually true. Old news for ‘83.
Piled on top of that we have deliberately overcooked religious symbolism, synchronous overlaps from Hitchcock and noir, and the film world conspiring to assist the nightmare unfold as we dreamed it would.
Of course all these things, as well as the many faces that Verhoeven has used to subvert America when he was finally invited over on the strength of this, the filmmaker employs as cruel whims he can lift and put back in place.
It is a tight construct, proof of his penchant for cinema all else aside. The writer begins to imagine a narrative around him as soon as the camera is set on him, and centered around this woman holding it. From his end, he is conspiring from inside that narrative to manipulate for sex that escapes him. Of course he soon discovers that he is just another play actor at the hands of a cruel maker; it happens with the discovery of film footage shot by her, shot by Verhoeven in just the way to make us imagine along with this man more sinister plots around the pictures.
Of course it’s the whole idea that we’re none the wiser by the end about the maker’s intentions filming these bits. Verhoeven’s farce is that where we zealously imagined depth and connection, there might be none outside our feverish ramblings to interpret.
It’s an okay film, but we’ve just had better sex since. This is sex with all the animated writhing but none of the passion that penetrates deep