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|Index||33 reviews in total|
I just saw this film last night and was really amazed by it. Unlike the
Verhoeven films that most American audiences are familiar with
(Robocop, Total Recall etc) it was a compelling coming of age piece set
in Holland. Like most of his early Dutch films, you can feel many of
the hallmarks of his style coming together and it's a testament to his
skill as a director that he can make a small character-driven film
about ordinary people like SPETTERS every bit as compelling as a
gigantic special effects driven spectacle like ROBOCOP.
This is an 80's disco motocross movie that has very little disco and very little motocross. What it has are many strong characters, all of them navigating life transitions and trying to figure out their place in the world.
As for the "shocking" scenes that a lot of people are referring to in the posts, there is a fair amount of sex and nudity (male especially) in this film but to call it "shocking" is misleading. The reason the film's frank treatment of sexuality is so eye opening is the way Verhoeven handles it as no big deal. Two men sneak into a subway for a tryst, and you actually see one of the guys go down on the other guy. Two pairs of teenagers sneak into an abandoned building to have sex and you see it. Or when a man and a woman lay in bed talking after having sex, you see the guy totally naked as well as the girl. What happens happens and it's presented as is.
Verhoeven doesn't cut away from nudity, but at the same time doesn't artificially sexualize it by zooming in it, laying in sexy background music etc etc. Like the co-ed shower scene in STARSHIP TROOPERS, it's presented in a completely matter of fact way. Verhoeven doesn't allude to anything in these scenes, and it gives the film a power and honesty and that wouldn't be there otherwise.
Overall I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this movie to anyone.
Bart Blackstone * Film Club Hollywood, CA
Verhoeven's fifth feature-length film was attacked by critics, financiers,
and much of the Dutch people alike for being "decadent", or "perverted"
originally released in 1980. Twenty-four years later, and unlike what has
happened with Showgirls, Paul is having the last laugh. Even his worst
1995's Showgirls, has a glimmer of redeeming value, but the difference in
Spetters is that it doesn't need any.
At heart, Spetters is the tale of two young amateur motocross racers and their mechanic. Along with their girlfriend, their lives are irrevocably altered when they cross paths with a fast food vendor and her brother. The whole film runs like a slice of life, and nothing that happens in real life is too distasteful for the camera.
If you don't want elements of the plot revealed, you can stop reading now.
The film has been accused of being anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-disabled. Once again, Verhoeven gets the last laugh when it becomes clear to anyone who watches it with their eyes open that none of these things are true. The story of one character's sexual confusion is played out in graphic detail, sure, but it is portrayed exactly as it would happen in real life. Sure, not every experience of homosexuality is as negative as in Spetters, but enough are to make this portrayal valid. The main woman of the story simply manipulates the situation or uses it as best she can to escape a situation she wants out of. Any woman with an ounce of strength in her character will do the same. The character who winds up paralysed finds himself reflecting on what he has lost, and it is enough to make him lose all sense of value in his life. Again, this happens every day in the real world.
There is a reason why films by Paul Verhoeven attract a certain kind of fan. Regardless of whether he succeeds or fails with his artistic goals, I have yet to see him sell out to the lowest common denominator. I have also never seen a film directed by Verhoeven where the camera is moved extraneously, obscuring details for fear of what the MPAA might have to say. The viewer is spared no details, even if it might make them turn from the screen in disgust.
If I could sum up Spetters in one word, it would be "relentless". I've seen many a film or television show that claims to show what kind of extreme pressures teenagers or young adults live under. Spetters is the first film I have seen in two decades that even makes the attempt, and better still it comes uncomfortably close. All in all, I consider it worthy of a nine out of ten. There are some elements that seem at odds with what Verhoeven would like us to believe they mean, but the effect overall is surprisingly good. Anyone who wants to see what would happen if they merged realistic versions of your typical Brat Packer film with a realistic version of Days Of Thunder will be well-served by checking out Spetters.
This film is really great. It's about three young, cocky Dutch guys whose
lives revolve around Motorcross racing and their encounters with a cute,
ambitious, smart working-class girl who lives in a trailer and is a short
order cook around the Motorcross site.
It is ultra-realistic and true to life and at the same time over-the-top and absurd to satirize the equally ridiculous but more fleeting absurdities of everyday life; in fact, 'real life' is much more absurd than anything that happens in this movie, but 'toned down,' and harder to notice, except upon reflection. With 'over the top' movies like "Spetters" the absurdities we all notice are turned 'way up high' for instant and easier identification and reflection. Other great movies of this type I've seen are Verhoeven's American version of "Spetters," "Showgirls," Sam Fuller's "Shock Corridor," Ken Russell's fantastic uncut version of "Crimes of Passion," and Mathew Bright's first "Freeway," but "Spetters" tops them all. It is the ultimate masterpiece of 'over-the-top' satire.
Try to find a well-stocked video store that carries the uncensored, subtitled Director's cut for rent (it's got some very graphic sex scenes in it with full fronal nudity, and a homosexual gang rape that makes anything in "American Me" look tame); it's a well transferred version which came out on HBO video a few years ago, and is now unavailable for sale for some reason; I'd buy it in a second if it was available.
While I wouldn't call this film anything great, it did manage to consistently keep me entertained and interested, and that usually isn't an easy task. The music stood out as a particularly effective part of the movie, as I often found it to be chilling. There were also a number of fascinating scenes in this movie, many of which would probably not be for all tastes. In fact, much like most Verhoeven films, this movie probably isn't for everybody, since it does get somewhat graphic at times. However, if you are a person who can handle the occasional disturbing image, then I would say that you should give this film a look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found "Spetters" was one of the most true to life "teen" to adult
coming of age films made in the 1980's that didn't get the credit or
respect it deserved.
"Spetters" takes an ensemble cast and manges to touch upon each piece of the joys and anguish of growing up at this age in a small town. What appeals the most to me about Spetters, is that even though this is filmed in Europe, the locations/cinematography is small town "anywhere"! The ensemble cast is also small town "anyone", and very appealing.
The ages 19 and 20 are one of the first notable "changes" of your life, and "Spetters" addresses those turning point decisions well. 19 is the end of the "teen" years, and 20 is not quite yet the adult so for these two years you are seriously thinking about how to make your way in the world - what is your talent, have you made the right decision to go into business, stay at home, finish college, date heavily, marry and most of all you are both questioning and coming to grips with WHO YOU ARE. In "Spetters" some are running away from who they are, others are embracing it, while still others are met with an unexpected future that destroys all of their future hopes and dreams.
At 19 and 20 - we all think we are indestructible. "Spetters" addresses this and the subsequent handling of tragedy and loss both physical and mental. Add in the "outside factors" of friends, sexuality, family, community, religion --- each (and more) shape in how these decisions play themselves out in their lives.
"Spetters" is filmed like you are watching life as it progresses day by day - it begins in the same place as it ends. "Spetters" is about three young men who live in a small town yearning to get out the only way they know how: via motor cross sport. All three men think they have the talent to make an be a champion in the sport like their hometown hero, and one in fact does posses the talent to go far, while the other two are placed in subordinate positions just to look from the outside in. Insert a smart, pretty and sexy young woman and her brother who have gone from town to town selling 'questionable' food snacks at the races. The woman also secretly yearns for something as well: real love, financial security and permanence. While at a stop over in this town, she sees potential in one of the men and takes it for all she's got the only way she knows how.
"Spetters" does have explicit sexual situations that drive the film in my opinion. And I'll admit, prior to seeing this film, there is much I had no idea took place. I would assume this might make the film as shocking for some viewers as it was for me. The frame of mind, surviving daily in this small town, and other growth situations of this group of characters are very important so their sexual development/exploits regardless of how shocking, are there to remind you of how these characters 'live'. And be warned, the sexual situations are heterosexual as well as homosexual, rape and consensual.
"Spetters" is a brilliant film of daily life, love and tragedy. If you can get the uncut, un-rated version in its original language, do. That is the first way I saw on on the Los Angeles based "Z" Channel and I am for all foreign director's visions to be seen uncut, unedited, undubbed and experienced in the vision of which they wanted to present it. A strong NC-17 (USA Code) film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is no "Saturday Night Fever." For one thing, "Spetters" is
more of an art film; while the other reeks of commercialism throughout.
The music by the Bee Gees, moreover, makes it look more like a record
album vainly attempting to be a film. Second, sexual repression in SNF
more impacts the lives of the American kids than it does the Dutch
boys. The garage scene in the latter film (where the three young bikers
compare erections to see who gets first crack at the carny gal)would be
judged too homo-erotic for American audiences to take, for instance.
While the American boys go disco dancing for fun; the dutch kids try
testing their courage in more dangerous ways, such as bike racing.
While the only death in "Spetters" occurs when a biker deliberately
crashes into a moving truck (a suicide, rather than living his life as
an impotent cripple); the American dies falling off a bridge while
stunting! Even the role models for the two groups of young men are
different. While John Travolta admires a poster of Al Pacino, an actor,
on his bedroom wall and takes pride in his hairdo; the bikers' hero is
a national cyclist whom they want to emulate and become someday.
Defining manhood, in American terms, becomes just another marketing
tool(since Travolta has no aspirations to act); while the three bikers
know the way to manhood lies through courage, not false glamor and
The scene where one of the bikers gets paid back for robbing and beating gay men by being gang-raped by tough-looking homosexuals, is excellent. Here the tables are turned in a way we would never see in American films, since gays are supposed to be victims who never fight back against their attackers. This demonstration of courage to defend one's honor and dignity makes "Spetters" a far superior film than SNF. SNF, despite all its trendiness as a barometer of the seventies, treats both its men and women as garden variety, working-class stereotypes. For genuine closeness, heroism and male-bonding, check this one out at the video store (make sure it's the uncut 123 min. DVD Director's version). A better coming-of-age film you will never see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paul Verhoeven's much-underrated film Spetters tells the typically
brash and uncompromising story of three young men growing up in a
sleepy village just outside of Rotterdam, consumed by small-town ennui,
and desperate for a life more glamorous and exciting than their own
loafing existence of discothèques, motor-cross and general everyday
tedium. It has a lot in common with certain American teen-melodramas of
the late 70's and early 80's (films like Foxes, Rumble Fish, The
Outsiders, River's Edge, etc), though is shot through with that
liberated European sensibility that probably has more in common with
Fassbinder, in terms of gritty stylisation. The story doesn't really
advance on the initial set up, with this being more of a character
based film in the minor-key (at odds with some of Verhoeven's better
known films, like Robocop, Basic Instinct and The Fourth Man), with the
director drawing on the relationships between the lead characters and
their various situations, in order to elicit a greater sense of drama.
The characters are all believable and likable to an extent - despite
the opening scenes establishing them as a bunch of arrogant, feckless
(possibly homophobic?) punks only out for themselves - however, as the
film progresses, Verhoeven and his scriptwriter Gerard Soeteman (who
collaborated with the director on all of his pre-Hollywood films) begin
playing with notions of irony, to strip away all the remnants of their
confidence and self-assurance in a number of melodramatic tragedies.
The film has a great style and feel to it, with Verhoeven capturing the real feel of early-80's Holland (or so I'd imagine) whilst also establishing a mood of endless possibilities for these three main characters. The early scenes of the film are quite bawdy and have a rather light-hearted and comedic tone to them, which is important, as it brings us into the world of the characters and allows us to become familiar with them before Verhoeven hits us with the hard stuff. When the film reaches the halfway mark, Verhoeven and Soeteman introduce the character of Fientje, a seductive hotdog vender who rolls into town with her bodybuilding brother on the day of the big motor-cross championship, only to immediately cross-paths with the three young bikers and the various other supporting players who will become more important towards the end of the film (...the dirt bike champion, the TV reporter, the hell's angels, etc). Her presence in town is treated with hostility by many of the characters, though ultimately, she proves to be an important catalyst for many of the major events in the film, enticing the three young men and seemingly persuading them that that can do "anything".
The film then takes it's Fassbinder aspirations to the next level, with each scene escalating to a frenzied sense of melodrama and tragedy, as Verhoeven introduces such themes as disability, religious fanaticism, homosexuality and suicide. Like all of the director's work (not just his early Dutch films), Spetters is both provocative and confrontational, with Verhoeven always trying to get some kind of response out of the viewer. However, whereas his early films, like Business is Business and Turkish Delight seemed like they were flaunting their liberated sexuality as something of a badge of honour (...whilst his U.S. work is largely out to push buttons), this film seems much more natural.
The problems the three young men encounter in this film (including parental abuse, disability, rape and ridicule) are everyday occurrences... true, they're exaggerated here, so as Verhoeven can achieve a greater sense of resonance and drama, but the whole thing seems all the more engaging and, to some extent, touching, especially compared to the bloated melodrama of his later film, Showgirls. It should be noted that Spetters, although one of the best films of the 1980's (in my opinion), certainly isn't for everyone. It's probably the furthest Verhoeven has ever gone in terms of the on screen depiction of sexuality, more so than The Fourth Man. Here, for the first time in its full-uncut version (though it has been shown uncut in the past on channels like Bravo and Film Four), we see the director in his element, mixing humour with drama, action with tragedy, and character with controversy.
The oft-discussed rape scene that happens half-way through the film is a real test for the audience, not simply for what is depicted within the scene (male gang rape replete with a brief erection) but also within the overall context (the protagonist eventually realises, through the rape, that he is indeed gay!). As well as this, there's also a two second shot of actually falatio, three erections (as the boys make a wager as to who has the biggest!!) and a moment between one of the boys, Rien, and the promiscuous Fientje, in which she strokes his penis in close-up. There's also a scene in which one of the hell's angels gets hot fat poured over him, some rather brutal scenes of domestic abuse and a violent suicide towards the end. Ultimately, the film ends with a glimmer of hope, building on top of the excellent style, script and moments of drama that have been peppered throughout this great, two-hour film. The direction from Verhoeven here is exceptional, whilst the performances, in particularly those from Renée Soutendijk, Maarten Spanjer and the tragic Hans van Tongeren, whose death sadly mirrored that of his character here, are all excellent and completely believable (whilst there's some fine cameo support offered from Verhoeven regulars, Jeroen Krabbé and Rutger Hauer). Spetters, for me, is an extreme film and something of a minor-masterpiece... it is also highly rewarding and engaging and ultimately, is evidence enough that Verhoeven, when taken away from films like Showgirls and Hollow Man, is a great filmmaker.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know why I like this film so much...I think there are so much element of the film which are just so dumb and silly, but at the same time, this is just a film that keeps spooking around in you're head and makes you want to see this film for the second time, and for the third time, and for the fourth time, and so on... The story is, I hope, familiar with all you guys who are reading this review, so I skip that part. It's just the sort of story I really would like to see more in Dutch films, and not in the way Johan Nijenhuis does it. A story with real emotions, and where people turn out really different than you think they are for real. Eef here for example, the homophobic who turns out to be gay himself. You don't see that kind of stuff in 'Volle Maan'. The things I really don't like about this is, most of all, the really childish humor in this film, like at the gas station where Eef asks a girl 'Shall I put that in?' (Zal ik m er even insteken). Lame, but I guess that was just 'cool' in that time. But I think this film is excellent just because of the raw manner of filming, with in general not brilliant acting performances, but just very touching.
Yesterday I saw Spetters again after a long long time, and it still
does it for me. It's even become a trip down memory-land back to the
good old eighties when I was a teenager myself.
It's a story that could have happened in real life. It shows the conservativeness of the heavily reformed Christians in the Netherlands in an excellent way and it still goes like that nowadays. The Netherlands are well known for it's liberality, but be aware, there is a other side to the Netherlands to that isn't liberal at all and it's shows in this movie. The way Eef's father is raising him and the way Eef is resisting his father is something i've seen a lot in real life.
One slight downfall from the movie is the way Eef found out he was gay. As he didn't actually seem to have any problems with the ladies, it's hard to buy that he suddenly became gay after he was raped. There were not any signals before. As for the homophobic humor, well, we all like to think we have the biggest one and the way it was handled is typical dutch. We are liberal about sex and like to joke about it. You feel for the characters and it's got heart. And that's always a hell of a achievement.
Furthermore i was surprised to see so many high raids by people outside the Netherlands. It's a typical liberal dutch story, so i'm surprised to see that people outside the Netherlands seem to understand the movie better then the people that commented the movie from the Netherlands.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Writer Gerard Soeteman has called Spetters a modern day fairy tale.
Viewed as such, it can be forgiven some of its rough edges and
far-fetched plot turns. The three princes/spetters all take a shot at
winning the love of the heroine. Destiny unfolds and each man learns
who he is: a tragic hero, a repressed homosexual and an average loser.
The men also measure who has the biggest cock.
The movie apparently received a lot of criticism from gay and women rights movements of the time. In retrospect, I think this is because the gay character is treated just as cruelly by life as the other characters. Probably a more politically correct movie maker than Verhoeven would have made the homosexual the moral winner. I agree that his story is described in pretty broad strokes, to put it mildly. Of course, in real life, no person will discover his sexual identity after a rape. Still, I would defend Verhoeven here with the fairy tale argument.
The protests of feminists are somewhat less understandable. Were they protesting against the fact that the heroine is a cold-hearted gold digger? But there is also a good-natured female character in the movie. And besides, why should a movie portray an ideal world?
The camera work is great and the staging of the scenes has a nice flow to it. The motorcycle stunts are well done for a movie made on this budget. It is Verhoevens craftsmanship which keeps the movie entertaining all the while.
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