In a debauched and twisted re-imagining of medieval legend and subverted fairy-tale, a grotesquely staged viscera of mud, blood, and the sweeping ravages of a plague provide the backdrop to the story of a group of mercenaries who, when a noble lord refuses to pay them for their latest mission, kidnap the woman betrothed to the lord’s son, with horrifying consequences.
At the heart of this uncompromising and blackly comic vision of a kidnapped princess and a psychotic mercenary are Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, eXistenZ) and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher), both delivering memorably intense performances.
A pivotal and underseen work in Verhoeven’s filmography, the director’s English language debut was both a troubled production and a watershed moment, marking the end of Verhoeven’s artistic collaboration with the charismatic Hauer (a fiery falling out that has more than a hint of Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog), as well as heralding the beginning of Verhoeven’s iconoclastic relationship with American studios: his next film after Flesh + Blood would be none other than RoboCop.
Flesh + Blood set the template for Verhoeven’s furious assaults on the tyranny of church and state, his upturning of genre expectations, and characteristically provocative portrayal(s) of female agency and violence, which are arguably the themes that define his cinema. Rarely seen on the big screen, it is not to be missed.
This film is screening at Tyneside Cinema as FLESH + BLOOD: THE CINEMA OF PAUL VERHOEVEN which you can learn more about here!