It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World Cinema Blog-a-thon – Week 2: Spetters (1980)

WorldCinemaBlogWeek2

What’s a Blog-a-thon? This blog-a-thon is a challenge, its participants have chosen films the other has not seen to watch and review.
November Blog-a-thon criteria: Gems Of World Cinema
Why Sam Chose This Film For Marcey:Paul Verhoeven is a director I have always felt gets short shrift. He’s perhaps the filmmaker I can most rely on to entertain me; perhaps the least pretentious great filmmaker. Everyone knows Verhoeven’s American films – Robocop, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers among others – but fewer have seen many, if any, of his Dutch films. Spetters was not well received in Holland, there was even a protest group formed specifically against it (reason enough to watch anything, to my mind), but I rather like it; it’s a coming of age movie shot through with Verhoeven’s explicit sensibility and blessed with some great performances, perhaps the most immediate and accessible of Verhoeven’s pre-Hollywood work.

Marcey’s Review: Like Sam, I am a big fan of Paul Verhoeven’s. I love Showgirls to pieces, RoboCop and Total Recall are certainly some of my all time favourites and I have a lot of time for Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct. I haven’t actually seen any of his Dutch films; I do think Sam knew this with his recommendation of this film. Spetters seemed to me a good place to start with that, so I was rather happy with the recommendation. I went into this film as blind as possible and I think that paid off.

I was taken on a bleaker than usual coming of age film, with that classic Verhoeven style and rawness. He does not at all hold back with this, sex and nudity are on full display as one might expect and at times it does feature some comedy elements. Our basic plot centers on three horn dog boys Rien (Hans van Tongeren), Eef (Toon Agterberg) and Hans (Maarten Spanjer). These guys want to party, drink, chase women and ride their bikes. Rien is the talented one on the bike, destined to be a star like their hero Gerrit (Rutger Hauer). Eef has a religious father who he can’t stand and in his spare time he robs male prostitutes. Hans is our goof character, and they all want a piece of Fientje (Renée Soutendijk) the local hot dog vendor.

Spetters

So we have these guys living it up but life is going to take drastic turns for them all, and with Rien it is almost just too much. It took me a little while to really find my footing with this film, it picked up when Fientje showed up, I guess she just sparked something within each character and actor that lit the film up. The way her character is portrayed is a loose woman, she will give up the goods for favours and has a turn with each of our leads. Verhoeven presents this aspect as if it was something natural, and why not? As he does with the men, their behaviour is normal for him, boys will be boys right? I found that an interesting take though, there is no judgment behind their actions. He doesn’t say loose women are the devil or horny boys are evil and it’s wrong. It is just a matter of fact for Verhoeven and it is refreshing to be honest.

This film works on many levels, he mixes up the genres so we have drama and comedy. I liked that, we get some pretty funny scenes, and ones that just made me spit my drink out – aka the ‘measuring contest’ scene. It also has that darker side as it deals with a gang rape (brought back memories of the one from Showgirls, only this wasn’t as nasty and violently vicious as that) and an outcome that isn’t unexpected but the way it happens though, that scene is just very odd. We have an accident that leads a character’s life down a path he cannot handle, and that outcome felt expected.

Spetters is certainly a product of the time, it’s as if Verhoeven saw Saturday Night Fever and said “Screw that, I can make my own film with those themes!” The film gets referenced in this, so it is no wonder it come to mind. I don’t think Verhoeven quite achieved exactly what he set out to, but this is an interesting film all the same. It left me cold at times and confused, then at others quite the opposite. Not his best work but certainly one worth checking out, I am glad that I did.

Rating:

Check out Sam’s review for his Week 2 film The Little Mermaid (1976)

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