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  Spetters Motorcycle Emptiness
Year: 1980
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Hans van Tongeren, Renée Soutendijk, Toon Agterberg, Maarten Spanjer, Marianne Boyer, Peter Tuinman, Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé, Saskia Ten Batenburg, Yvonne Valkenburg, Ab Abspoel, Rudi Valkenhagen, Hans Veerman, Ben Aerden
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Three Dutch friends, Rien (Hans van Tongeren), Eef (Toon Agterberg) and Hans (Maarten Spanjer) have one passion in life, and that's their motorbikes. They all wish to be part of the dirt bike motorsport championships, and dream of the day that they can compete alongside their hero Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer), a rider smug about the string of winning races and trophies he has under his belt. Today they are attending a camera crew filming Witkamp's latest bout of publicity, and are surprised to learn he trained as a dentist - but as they are about to find out, life is full of surprises...

Director Paul Verhoeven and his scriptwriter Gerard Soeteman suffered a lot of criticism for this, another of their Dutch films that caught on internationally. This was as extreme as their previous works, but the sexual quotient which was even more explicit considering that included not only a penis measuring competition but a disturbing gang rape, won the filmmakers few friends among the more conservative areas of their local society. Still, it marked out Verhoeven as an artist who was prepared to go the extra mile to make his works stick in the mind.

As vivid as all this melodrama is, Verheoven and Soeteman don't appear to be passing judgement on their characters, even when they act abominably. In fact, they appear to treat them with something approaching callousness at times, especially in light of the troubles and challenges that meet the friends which they either overcome or fall victim to. The catalyst for their life lessons is the arrival of a fast food van run by Fientje (Renée Soutendijk) and her brother; she will attach herself to each of them over the course of the story.

Fientje starts off with Rien (van Tongeren tragically killed himself a couple of years after making this, his debut, a sobering reflection of what happens to his character in the film), seeing his natural talent at the track as her ticket out of working class misery. Rather than be satisfied with what she's got, she is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to escape what she sees as a life of drudgery, but despite being the resident femme fatale, the film is not too hard on her for trying.

After Rien gets his big money deal with a Japanese sponsor, an accident with a bag of orange peel sees to it that his wishes to compete at championship level, or of anything much, are dashed. This means Fientje moves onto Eef and Hans in turn, though neither have Rien's ability. Eef, who has a troubled relationship with his religious father, has a habit of mugging homosexuals when wandering the gay district by night, a scheme which backfires on him spectacularly. The more agreeable Hans meanwhile ends up the butt of motorsport jokes thanks to his lack of prowess. None of this ends entirely happily, too often the connection between the various plotlines is sketchy at best and the view of sexuality is unconvincing, but it is watchable in an extreme soap opera kind of way and there is a ray of hope at the end even though what you've witnessed leaves you with mixed feelings to say the least. Music by Ton Scherpenzeel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Paul Verhoeven  (1938 - )

Dutch director who is no stranger to controversy. He became famous in his homeland for violent, sexually frank films such as Turkish Delight, Soldier of Orange (a fine war epic), Spetters and The Fourth Man, after which he moved to Hollywood.

His first American movie, Flesh + Blood, showed he meant to continue as he started, and he was rewarded with the huge hit RoboCop. This began a line of lurid science fiction adventures such as Total Recall, Starship Troopers and Hollow Man, but his sexually-themed Basic Instinct and Showgirls were equally uncompromising.

Verhoeven's sharp sense of humour tempers his over-the-top style, but he frequently sails too close to being ridiculous for many to take him seriously. The war drama Black Book, filmed in his native Holland, raised his standing once more, and his black comedy thriller Elle won great acclaim for star Isabelle Huppert.

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