Classic Movie Themes: Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven has seldom made a movie without some semblance of controversy associated with it, and his 1992 neo-noir Basic Instinct was no different. Even before its US release, Basic Instinct courted controversy due over its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. It was strongly opposed by gay rights activists, who criticised the film's depiction of homosexual relationships and the portrayal of a bisexual woman as a homocidal narcissistic psychopath. The opening murder with an icepick is still shocking twenty six years later and is an excellent showcase for makeup FX artists Rob Bottin.
The plot is a text book example for the genre. Troubled police detective (Michael Douglas), returns from suspension to investigates a brutal murder, in which a manipulative and seductive woman (Sharon Stone) could be involved. Events quickly get out of hand as detective Nick Curran becomes personally involved in the case. The script by Joe Eszter has smoulders with sexual tension and is further punctuated by explosions of violence. Performances are universally good, elevating what is essentially a rather sleazy murder mystery into a far classier undertaking. The film also offers an interesting social commentary on contemporary US sexual politics. Let it suffice to say that beauty often harbours a dark heart.
Regardless of your views on the merit of the movie, Jerry Goldsmith score for Basic Instinct is absolute gem, finely balancing the suspense and the on-screen sexuality. He brilliantly blends mystifying strings, woodwinds, harp, along with piano to build a sense of tension. The soft, wistful title theme is both alluring as well as ominous; a subtle warning of the events that follow in the movies opening scene. The strings section carries the burden of the work, as they do for every other cue throughout the remainder of the score. Basic Instinct remains a text book example of the craft of the late Jerry Goldsmith, bringing distinct elements of class and maturity to the raw passion of the movie.