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Sort of a cross between "Love Story" and an earthy Rembrandt painting, this movie stars Rutger Hauer as a gifted Dutch sculptor who has a stormy, erotic, and star-crossed romance with a beautiful young girl. The story follows the arc of their relationship and his interaction with her family. Told in flashback form, initially Hauer is seen as a libertine lothario collector, taking trophies from his sexual conquests and pasting them in a book. He sees a sculpture he made of his lost lover and goes into a flashback of his relationship with his wife. He meets the girl, falls in love with/marries her, and we meet her parents: a charming, well meaning, bumbling father, and his shrew of a wife, who's convinced Hauer's too much of a bohemian to make a good mate for her daughter. Eventually, the petty jealousies, the sexual hijinks, and the climactic vomit scene prove too much for the marriage, and sculptor and his lady fair separate. Flash forward several months, and Hauer finds the girl back... Written by
There are many ways in which love and passion can be manifested in a relationship, but if it is to prevail, it is essential that both sides complement one another, physically, emotionally and psychologically; the feelings borne on the wings of romance must above all else be mutual and deeply instilled on both sides. When they are not, the end result must necessarily be estrangement; it is a law-- not of man, but of nature. In `Turkish Delight,' director Paul Verhoeven dissects a relationship born of passion, examines the ramifications of the attitudes and actions of the individuals involved-- as well as the couple they become-- and offers the results to his audience for consideration. Is it, though, a story of love and passion? Yes. But it comes via a route more analogous to the sensibilities of David Cronenberg than Ang Lee; it is decidedly more Craven than Capra. So don't come to this film expecting tender moments; instead, prepare yourself for an offering that is provocative, that is sexually explicit, and finally, graphic in it's more violent moments. This is a film for neither the fainthearted nor the modest, but for the discerning viewer only.
In the first few minutes of this film, we are introduced to Eric Vonk (Rutger Hauer), an artist with a passion for his work, but even more so for experiences that lean more toward the wanton and carnal in aspect. We instantly become voyeurs as he proceeds to overindulge in a series of lusty encounters, an extreme display of irresponsible debauchery that cannot but impel a most unpropitious and subjective first impression on behalf of the viewer, who is forced to bear witness to a man of obvious and insatiable appetites and a tentative moral code. Or so it would seem, initially.
As the story unfolds, however, we begin to understand Eric and what it is that compels him thus; and it begins with a photograph of a beautiful young woman named Olga (Monique van de Ven), the woman with whom Eric once shared his life, love, passion and, yes, his lust. It is obvious from the outset that she is no longer with him, which evokes the question that has to be asked: `Why?' And from that inauspicious beginning, a picture emerges that may not be pretty, and is, in fact, fairly disconcerting. By the end of the film, though, all questions pertaining to Eric Vonk and the mysterious Olga have been answered. The screen grows dark then; but the images to which the viewer has just been made privy are ones that are going to remain in the mind's eye for some time afterwards.
Working from a screenplay by Gerard Soeteman (adapted from the novel by Jan Wolkers), Verhoeven establishes himself as the antithesis of Nora Ephron, presenting his `love' story in terms that are decidedly raw and primitive. Though he does manage to establish the fact that Eric does have deep love for Olga, it is lust that seemingly dominates the picture, and though there is a dramatic twist to the story, it all comes across more like a twisted fairy tale than anything else. Verhoeven uses violence to express the same sentiments Ephron, for example, does through compassion and empathy. But that is his style. It's his prerogative; it's his turf; it's his film. And Verhoeven as much as says to his audience that if you don't like it, you can leave. It's not as if he doesn't have respect for his viewer, though; rather, it seems as if it's something he simply has not considered.
If you can get past the baggage with which Verhoeven inexplicably saddles his own film, there is an interesting, if not riveting, story to be found. But, like Cronenberg's affinity for slime and things that ooze, Verhoeven apparently cannot escape his affinity for violence, even when it works to his detriment. In the case of this film, it results in certain scenes that are too avant-garde to be effective within the context of the overall film. These are scenes in which Eric is hallucinating or day dreaming about particular aspects of his relationship with Olga. They are abrupt insertions into the narrative that simply do not mesh with the flow of the film. The seam left by the weave, as it were, is just too apparent. Beyond the shock value (which is minimum), it just doesn't work.
On the positive side, Verhoeven does extract worthy performances from his stars, Hauer and van de Ven. Hauer, in his feature film debut (and at this point some eight years away from his American film debut in `Nighthawks') displays a natural ability in front of the camera and seems comfortably uninhibited, which enables him to use his rugged good looks to the best advantage. Eric is a complex character of single minded intent, which Hauer conveys quite ably in his performance. Van de Ven also makes her motion picture debut here, and beyond her obvious beauty there is a definite indication of the talent that would soon bring her international acclaim (though her star has yet to rise above the American landscape). Her portrayal of Olga is convincing, and her myriad charms are neither misplaced nor misused by Verhoeven here. And commendably, she manages to transcend the mere use of her physical attributes and create a memorable character with a truly affecting performance.
The supporting cast includes Tonny Huurdeman (Moeder), Wim van den Brink (Vader) and Dolf de Vries (Paul). This film is definitely not for everyone; it fails as entertainment, but succeeds as an examination of the extremes to which we, as humans, are susceptible. `Turkish Delight,' then, will be received in any number of different ways. Some will be shocked and appalled by what they see on the screen; others will be offended. And still others will understand that what is depicted here is a very real reflection of things that go on in a very real world, as interpreted by Paul Verhoeven. 7/10.
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