The Indecent Woman

(De Onfatsoenlijke vrouw, Ben Verbong, Netherlands, 1991)


The Indecent Woman begins with a great quote from philosopher Georges Bataille: “Every human being should go astray at least once in life”.

Unfortunately, watching this earnest story of a married woman (José Way as Emilia) who breaks the mould of her conventional life and discovers her wild sexuality, is rather like attending a very dry seminar.

Characters strike poses and discourse about desire well into the night, but the actors’ attempts at simulating transgressive passion are none too convincing.

Reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s forgotten The Touch (1971), Ben Verbong’s film is a curious example of arthouse soap opera – a rather illicit genre in that it is rarely named as such or discussed in public.

As a quite banal tale of lust, deceit, adultery and suspicion, The Indecent Woman is no better and no worse than half of the trashy soap plots on television.

All it takes is subtitles, a touch of sombre classical music and a few flashy intellectual references, and – voilà! – soap can be marketed (and redeemed) as art.

Dennis Potter knew this trick extremely well.

© Adrian Martin November 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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