Spetters (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Teen Movie  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - Netherlands   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Nathan Southern

Paul Verhoeven's visceral coming-of-age saga Spetters follows events from the lives of three male teenage buddies in a Holland port town, who share a passion for motocross racing, a reverence of celebrity rider Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer), and a romantic infatuation with Fientje (($Renee Soutendijk}), a gorgeous young woman who sells french fries and croquettes from the Hook of Holland van that she operates with her brother. Voluptuous, uninhibited, and free with her body, she uses sex to get what she wants - as when she staves off trouble with a police officer by bringing him back to her trailer. She also longs for an affluent boyfriend who can deliver her from an unhappy life, and sees each of the racing contenders as a possible option. One by one, the men take turns dating and bedding Fientje, and each character's life undergoes a dramatic shift during the period of that relationship. To reveal more would be unfair, but suffice it to say that all of the arcs are completely credible, anchored by uniformly strong performances from the young cast. Verhoeven also works in a great deal of offbeat humor, as in an inventive sequence where two adjacent couples audibly feign intercourse to impress each other, and a riotous secret about Fientje's food service van that doesn't emerge until 2/3 of the way through the picture. The movie's only real flaw is a serious one, though: it displays extreme bigotry and prejudice toward homosexuals. A subplot where one gay male character gets in touch with his orientation via the "therapeutic" act of a gang bang is appalling and leaves a nasty taste in one's mouth. (Would it have been any less effective for Verhoeven to choose a more subtle way to bring him out of the closet?) If one can get past this ugly blemish, the remainder of the film strikes one as surprisingly effective and dramatically sound. Viewers should be forewarned, however, that Spetters is extremely explicit. It contains several scenes that would have earned it an automatic X rating in the States, had it been submitted to the MPAA (it went out as unrated). Less jaded viewers may find it a little bit unsettling to see graphic fellatio, onanism, and anal rape in a non-porno film, though this level of frankness is consistent enough with Verhoeven's prior Dutch work that fans of Turkish Delight and Keetje Tippel will know exactly what to expect.