Naturally, in a movie like Benedetta, sex comes up. It's a movie that is almost defined by how it treats human sexuality. But in his recent interview with The Sunday Times, Verhoeven expressed his frustrations with all of Hollywood, and what he thinks is a puritanical relationship with sex.
“Sex is the essence of existence!” he told the Sunday Times. “Without it, there are no species any more. So why is that a big secret? There is a new purity.”
Verhoeven wants there to be more sex in cinema. Studio films have gotten too boring for him. They're action movies with no substance.
“It’s about crashing and blowing up,” Verhoeven said. “Sometimes these movies are fun, but the narrative tells you nothing about us now. I don’t see any other thought in Marvel or Bond movies.”
Bond is where Verhoeven draws the line. That used to be a franchise with a lot of sex in it. While it's not all up to today's social standards, there was plenty of room for sex to change with Bond. Instead, it was removed. So how would Verhoeven fix Bond?
“There was always sex in Bond!” Verhoeven said. “They did not show a breast, or whatever. But they had some sex.”
He was specifically bemoaning No Time to Die, which told the story of a much more mature Bond, ready to do what he can for his family and his country.
While I usually smile and laugh at Verhoeven's big personality, I can't help but think he might have a point. After Casino Royale, we really didn't get much sex in Bond movies at all. He was brooding over Vesper and then falling in love with someone new. While this change in the story was fun, I do wish there was a way to also keep the sex inside Bond.
Not like, dirty stuff—but so much happens in No Time to Die, and we don't even get any goodbye sex between him and his wife. In fact, the movie sort of posits he's been living like a monk, alone on an island, in the years they've been apart. Wouldn't a more mature Bond be the Bond who has married sex with his wife before realizing he can never settle down thanks to the sins of the past? These are ruminations, not rules, but it is something to think about as the new Bond franchise searches for talent in front of and behind the camera to carry it forward.
I also think Verhoeven's right about Hollywood taking sex out of blockbusters. Some of it has to do with traveling overseas, and some of it has to do with making sure big movies are okay for kids. It will be interesting to see where this all takes Hollywood. Not everything has to be Benedetta, but not everything has to be sanitized Marvel. We're still trying to find a middle ground. Time will tell if we do.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.