Flesh + Blood. The Dutch films of Paul Verhoeven: Turkish Delight, Soldier of Fortune, Spetters, The Fourth Man

Posted in Cultural Mining, Movies, Netherlands, Psychological Thriller, Sex, Uncategorized, violence, WWII by CulturalMining.com on January 30, 2014

fourthman_02Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Paul Verhoeven. You’ve probably seen some of his Hollywood movies — Robocop, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, Showgirls. He’s known for his shocking nudity, brutal sex and stylized violence. Popular movies, but unpopular with most critics. They saw him as a misogynist, a schlockmeister and a fascist. None of this is true. He’s actually a great director.

The critical tide seems to be turning. His films are now being revisited in a TIFF Netherlandsretrospective. This week, I’m looking at the less-well-known, but fantastic films he made in the Netherlands in the 1970’s and 80s before going to Hollywood.

In some ways Verhoeven’s early films were totally Hollywood. His men (Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbe) are lantern-jawed and lusty; his women (Renee Soutendijk, Monique Van den Ven) are petite beauties… and as independent and blatantly sexual as the men. His movies are filled with full frontal nudity (both male and female) explicit sex, and brutal violence, often with a queer twist. And a constant undercurrent of anti-authoritarianism.

They explore the postwar world of the baby boom and its sexual revolution in the glory days between the pill and AIDS.

Rutger Hauer Turkish DelightTurkish Delight (1973)

Erik (Rutger Hauer) is a sculptor in a small city. He has long blond hair and aviator sunglasses. He’s the kind of guy who takes whatever he wants – an old lady’s fur coat, a stranger’s ice cream cone. This applies to women as well – he’s a champion pick-up artist.

But he bristles at the old guard – the uptight shopkeepers and burgermeisters– and despises their hypocrisy. Erik’s sculpture of Lazarus (the biblical character who comes back to life), gets him in trouble – the town fathers don’t like the worms and maggots eating Lazarus’s flesh. But Erik revels in them.

Verhoeven also piles on the shocks. The decay and rot of old ideas are turkish_delight_02everywhere: clean, orderly Netherlands is shown as a country full of worms, feces, garbage and vomit. Old people have cancer and dementia; their sex is furtive and hidden. Erik wants sex to be free, open and everywhere.

So he heads off to Amsterdam, but is picked up by a beautiful young woman, Olga (Monique Van de Ven) on the way. Olga is voluptuous and impetuous; they leap into bed in bloodsoaked sexual abandon. But is their marriage a flash in the pan or everlasting love? Olga is the woman of Eric’s dreams… but she’s still young. She grows bored with him and the constant sex. Can he  ever get her back?

Turkish Delight is a delightful sex comedy.

soldieroforange_01Soldier of Orange (1977)

Leiden University in 1938. War is looming, but the upper-class frat boys are more concerned with hazing, songs, tennis and drinking. They’re apolitical toffs who swear loyalty for life. Erik and Guus (Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbe) become fast friends. But then, the Germans invade, Queen Willhemina flees to Britain, and the Netherlands is under Nazi occupation. Suddenly everything changes. Friends fight friends.

Some – like one student whose mother is German —  drift toward Nazi collaboration; others join the Resistance. They send out furtive messages to London by wireless, but the Germans – riding on bicycles with detectors around their necks – uncover the operation. They arrest most of the conspirators and use them to unwittingly spread false rumours. Some remain loyal till death, other’s crack under torture and switch sides. A few dozen men escape, including Erik and Guus. They climb onto a Swiss ship and make it to London. There, in the name of the Queen, they operate air raids and launch undercover missions. Based on a true story, this epic is a fantastic, wartime look at the few and the brave.

spetters_eyefilm_02_mediumSpetters (1980)

Three best friends in their twenties, one redhead, one dark and one blond.  Rien,  Eef and Hans (Hans van Tongeren, Toon Agterberg, Marten Spanjer) work together at a mechanic shop: Rien drives a dirt bike and Eef can take one apart and put it back together… blindfolded! They love to race and ride at local events and they all idolize the the champ — their hero Gerrit (Rutger Hauer).

They all end up crushing on the same  carney Fientje (Renee Soutendijk) who runs a fry and croquette truck with her brother. Fientje is older and tougher than the boys. She has curly blonde hair but is no pushover – she’s ambitious. She’s quick with her pot of boiling oil against any guy trying to steal from the chip wagon. The spetters_eyefilm_01_mediumthree guys decide the best endowed will get to date her – but she has other ideas; she chooses the redhead Rien – the only one with a girlfriend. She gets him a sponsor and an expensive bike; she hopes her star will rise with his. (But will he make it as a champion?)

Next comes the dark-haired Eef, a farmers son with a homophobic streak: he bashes gays and steals their money. He uses the cash to buy one-way tickets to Canada for Fientje and himself so he can escape his abusive home… but is he sexually compatible with her?

The blond, Hans, is the third in line, with nothing to recommend him. He too wants to be the next champ but faces a cynical, exploitative world… can he win her heart? 

Spetters is a great coming-of-age story about where fate takes one woman… and the three young men who want her.

fourthman_01The Fourth Man (1983)

A Psychological Thriller.

Gerard (Jeroen Krabbe) is a novelist in Amsterdam with a vivid imagination. He likes to “lie the truth”. He sees signs, symbols and omens everywhere: the number four, the virgin Mary, a detached eyeball. He’s Catholic – but more into the spooky gothic icons than the sinning and repenting. He’s also a red-blooded gay man. So when he spots a young guy at a newsstand near the train station he is in love. (Well, in lust). He chases him but misses the train.

Soon, he finds himself in a small town doing a book reading. Christine (Renee Soutendijk), a stunning blonde widow in a red dress, 1940s-style is filming him in super-8. They end up in bed, but he fourthman_03awakens from a bizarre castration nightmare involving Christine and a pair of scissors. (She owns a beauty salon called Sphinx.)

Going through her letters when she’s out of the room, Gerard discovers a photo of her boyfriend Herman (Thom Hoffman). It’s the same man he saw at the train station! So he fakes a psychic vision and convinces her to invite her macho and jealous lover to come stay with her. He aims to seduce Herman. But he discovers that MBDFOMA EC004Christine has a secret history of her own. Will this sexual triangle end in love… or death?

I recommend all four of these films. Turkish Delight, Soldier of Orange,  Spetters and The Fourth Man are all part of Flesh + Blood, the Paul Verhoeven Retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox now through April. Go to tiff.net for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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  1. […] is the latest from filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, known for his playful movies filled with sex, violence, intrigue and war. From his Dutch greats […]


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