Spetters (1980)

spetters

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Paul Verhoeven says “Vaarwel” to his native Netherlands with this very controversial coming of age film set in the world of motocross racing.

Three best friends are enthralled with the world of motocross and each has his own personality. Rien is an up-and-coming racer who is making waves on the amateur circuit. Eef is a mechanic raised in a strict religious household. Hans is just looking for respect. They have a hometown hero in Gerrit Witkamp, who is on his way to become the world motocross champion. At night, the trio of friends hang out at the disco and have fun with girls.

However, the trio will soon have their lives turned upside down when Fientje, a young woman, arrives with her brother Jaap. They run a food truck together, but Fientje longs for a better life. One that doesn’t involve her brother. She successfully seduces Rien and tries to help him with his career until an accident puts an end to the promising racer’s career once and for all. Soon, both Eef and Hans soon go through life-altering changes themselves thanks to the influence of Fientje and Jaap. Will Fientje finally have her dream of leaving her brother and what will come of the three friends as they adjust to their new lives?

Today, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is best known for films such as the original RoboCop, Showgirls, and Starship Troopers. However, he started making films in his native Netherlands with one of his top stars being another Hollywood veteran, Rutger Hauer. When the film was initially released in 1980, it was met with heavy criticism. Even the financiers of the film were not happy with the results. The content of the film, revolving around three friends in the world of motocross, really brings controversy when it comes to religion, homosexuality, police, and even the media. The flack received from the film ultimately brought Verhoeven to Hollywood, where he had found success despite a few bumps in the road.

The film was meant to introduce some new talent in the world of Dutch cinema. However, two young talents that would really break out from this film are Renee Soutendijk, who plays the seductress with a heart Fientje, and Maarten Spanjer, who plays Hans, who is more or less a loser who only yearns to be respected not just in racing, but in life as well. That doesn’t take away the talents of Hans van Tongeren, who plays the up-and-comer Rien, who after an accident, finds himself in a downward spiral of depression and angst. For his film debut, van Tongeren was quite impressive yet it is sad that life imitated art when van Tongeren committed suicide in 1982 at the age of 27.

Toon Agterberg also does well as Eef, a mechanic who sees his indulgences as a way to break away from his strict religious upbringing. This is seen when his Calvinist father punishes him for making a wisecrack at the dinner table. Eef is perhaps the most conflicted of the three as he spends his nights spying on and eventually robbing or blackmailing gays. This is depicted in a very controversial scene at first cut out of the U.S. release only to be put back in when the original cut was released on DVD. However, in one of the most disturbing yet pivotal scenes of the film, we learn why Eef does what he does.

Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbe also make the best of their veteran roles as the motocross hero everyone respects and the reporter who practically worships him like a god with his heavy promotion respectively. This film would also become both actors’ tickets to Hollywood and they have enjoyed success in the States. Krabbe can be perhaps best known for his roles as villain in The Living Daylights (1987), Dolph Lundgren’s take on The Punisher (1989), and Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo (2005) while Hauer’s career speaks for itself: Ladyhawke (1985), Blind Fury (1989), Batman Begins (2005), and True Blood just to name a few.

Spetters has its share of controversy, but it is actually a very good film that shows that life itself may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The newcomers do quite an impressive job with the vets showing some good support.

WFG RATING: B

A VSE Productions B.V. production. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Producer: Joop van den Ende. Writer: Gerard Soeteman. Cinematography: Jost Vacano. Editing: Ine Schenkkan.

Cast: Hans van Tongeren, Renee Soutendijk, Toon Agterberg, Maarten Spanjer, Marianne Boyer, Peter Tuinman, Saskia Ten Batenburg, Yvonne Valkenberg, Ab Abspoel, Rudi Falkenhagen, Hans Veerman, Jeroen Krabbe, Rutger Hauer.

 

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