The Sounds of Paul Verhoeven

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If you think of a director who combines biting satire and prescient socio-cultural commentary with over-the-top B-movie aesthetics, one name should immediately come to mind: Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director who has made a career out of exactly that potent and offbeat combination. In visual terms, Verhoeven’s “look” is best represented by the lurid image of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bulging eyes and tongue in Total Recall.


When it comes to sound, Verhoeven—whose last feature, Elle, starring Isabelle Huppert, was acclaimed for its treatment of extremely controversial themes, doesn’t choose to embrace subtlety. Instead, his movies are alive with noises visceral and mechanical, typified by both squelching bodies and the beeps and boops of technological interfaces. Of course, like many filmmakers, he also went with a very synth-heavy approach to sound design in the 1980s and 1990s. In this video, we take a listen at how Verhoeven’s unique and effective combinations of organic and inorganic noises help audiences to absorb his dark, sometimes snarky, and often-sardonic point of view.

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