“Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all.”
I’ve had to sit on this for a couple days, because I was so thrown by it. But I think I’ve been able to articulate my thoughts about Paul Verhoven’s amazing return to the scene.
First: it’s kind of screwball comedy of manners built around a rape – and it’s hilarious.
Huppert is incredible (she deserves a million Oscars for this – she is biting and angry and sly and delightful), and basically plays a super charming semi-sociopath. She is a woman who doesn’t conform to societal standards or social norms, and she gives exactly zero fucks – to the point of almost being unlikeable. That’s a bold move for a film that opens with her character being raped.
So it’s obviously quite problematic, and though I think the last act does some stuff that I thought was subversively powerful in the way that it refuses to engage in normal rape-revenge violence for something much more complicated, some of my friends have described it as “reprehensible” and “dangerous.” While I don’t agree with those assessments, I understand where that interpretation comes from.
I think my best defence of the film (in a sentence) is that Huppert’s character (Michele) refuses to A: let the rape define her and B: become a victim.
This is a story that truly celebrates the individual, that truly respects the psychological complexity of its main character, that seems to say ‘you are only what you make of yourself, you are not what the universe has put upon you.’
There is no shame here. There is no condescension. There is only curiosity and (honestly) wonder.
VERHOVEN IS BACK, BABY.