Narrative subversion and hidden extremes.
This year, the Festival pays a career tribute to an eminent director whose works have stirred controversy by creating discomfort through narrative subversion.
A filmmaker of hidden extremes, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven will also deliver a masterclass to the delight of curious cinephiles who will have a chance to directly interact with a prolific and controversial filmmaker whose works have been described as the most "debauched, hilarious and upsetting movies in Hollywood’s history.”
The Festival also schedules the screening of his sci-fi movie RoboCop in the Jamaa El Fna Square. Verhoeven’s films are dominated by explicit violence and sexual content, leading some critics to call his titles: “perverted and decadent.” To them, he responds that his films only depict society as it is. He often argues that his works as permeated by a realism that emanates from the Dutch realist school of painting and from his own experience as a child outliving the bombings of The Hague during WWII.
He goes as far as comparing his life to that of Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th Century. Verhoeven made his first film when he was serving in the Dutch Navy in the 1960s. He quickly rose to prominence with his feature Turkish Delight (1973) which was named the Best Dutch Film of the Century at the Netherlands Film Festival. He then directed movies such as Soldier of Orange (1977) and the Fourth Man (1983), but his film Spetters (1980) put him under the spotlight triggering the backlash of the LGBT community because of a scene of a gay gang-rape.
Verhoeven moves to Hollywood in the mid-1980s and quickly makes his place as one of the most successful directors with blockbusters such as RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990) and erotic thriller Basic Instinct (1992). In 1995, he directed Showgirls, which exhibits his wit and satire in treating sexuality in the US through recounting the life of a stripper. In 2006, he made the Black Book, a film about a Jewish woman who falls in love with a Nazi officer in Holland. And after a decade-long absence, Verhoeven returns with a yet another psychological thriller which debuted this year in Cannes, Elle (screened in the Out-Of-Competition category at the Marrakech Festival).
The film bears the trademark of Verhoeven, opening with a bold scene depicting an explicit sexual assault. It stars Isabelle Huppert in the role of Michèle, a divorced woman who tracks down the man who raped her.