It is not uncommon for a film to be remembered more popularly years after its initial release, or more correctly, etched in the mind of its viewers courtesy of that one scene. The scene could be impactful, dramatically or otherwise, provocative, unexpected, shocking, grisly, or exceedingly funny in a manner that you did not anticipate or see coming. However, fewer among them achieve the status of the scene becoming the identity of the film altogether.
By the merit in that argument, you are plainly lying if a cross legged Sharon Stone seated in that black leather chair does not appear in your mind before you deliberately try to switch over to one of the less memorable scenes from the film, whenever I mention Paul Verhoeven’s sensuous murder mystery ‘Basic Instinct’. Need a testament to what I am saying? Here it is. Type the film’s name on the Google search bar and the first ten images that appear are from the scene. Major keywords in the search term suggestions include “interrogation”, “legs”, Catherine”, “flash” and “cross”. Every single major channel on Youtube lists the official trailer of the film with this shot as the cover image.
As a matter of fact, coming to the ever belligerent viewer, even you have forgotten what the actual poster of the film looks like. Such is the power of the scene; and I have absolutely no doubts that in the times to follow, this one scene will also be the film’s legacy. Without a doubt, the single most paused scene in movie history, Sharon Stone’s interrogation scene in the film came to ‘posterise’ the film in a way I have rarely seen any single shot or scene do to a film in recent times.
‘Basic Instinct’ was itself a mildly entertaining thriller in my opinion, with clearly under-running themes of eroticism and sensuality. However, despite that, and despite the film clearly involving at least two explicit love making scenes featuring both female and male nudity, it was a partially obscured, momentary glimpse of a woman’s vulva that caught the fancy of the audience, and drove well over a quarter of the world crazy. It is almost hysterical, categorically even funny if you think about the hysteria itself, but also psychologically perplexing and bewildering if you ask me, the reason what pressed people to go back to the scene in insane numbers, even pause and stay, leading it to acquiring the status that it has today.
Even personally so, whatever you may consider the scene to be: shocking, provocative, powerful, empowering, or distasteful, something even remotely along those lines is often accompanied with controversy, and this scene and the film, are no exception to that. We will dive into the controversy later, but what I am currently more interested in is to decode what exactly is it that caught the fancy of an audience even half a world across, that something clearly more explicit or readily available couldn’t. Ironically enough, the best way to do that was to watch the scene a mind numbingly enough number of times. In the sections that follow, I have tried to list out my findings and more about the controversy. Read on.