This weekend’s news that an infamous rape scene from Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris” involving actors Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was indeed non-consensual elicited an immediate uproar online. The filmmaker has now responded with a new statement (translated from Italian) in which he claims that there’s been a “ridiculous misunderstanding” as to what actually occurred.
“I would like, for the last time, to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding that continues to generate press reports about ‘Last Tango in Paris’ around the world,” begins the statement. “Several years ago at the Cinemathèque Francaise someone asked me for details on the famous ‘butter scene.’ I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter. We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies. Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!”
Bertolucci’s comments were made in 2013, and video of the event recently surfaced, causing renewed interest and discussion over the acclaimed but controversial film. Misunderstandings regarding the sexual scenes in the film have long persisted — namely, the false belief that actual intercourse occurred onscreen — and Bertolucci’s comments about the use of butter appear to have only added more fuel to that fire.
And while the filmmaker is quick to clarify that it was only the use of the butter that was non-consenual, the effect of filming the scene doubtless left a lasting effect on Schneider.
“I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci,” Schneider said in a 2007 Daily Mail interview. She never shot another nude scene and suffered from depression and addiction issues in the years following “Last Tango.” In 2011, the actress died of cancer.
“Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described,” continues Bertolucci in his new statement. “The only novelty was the idea of the butter.”