Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Netherlands, 1973. Verenigde Nederlandsche Filmcompagnie. Screenplay by Gerard Soeteman, based on the novel by Jan Wolkers. Cinematography by Jan de Bont. Produced by Rob Houwer. Music by Rogier van Otterloo. Production Design by Strengholt Laurens. Film Editing by Jan Bosdriesz. Academy Awards 1973.
Paul Verhoeven had his first international success with this romance that, decades later, has maintained its energy and appeal. Rutger Hauer is excellent as a sculptor and ruthless womanizer who beds countless women on a daily basis for one simple reason: he is broken up over his great love (Monique van de Ven) leaving him for another man. We then flash back to the beginnings of their relationship, a case of star-crossed lovers brought together by intense physical attraction and kept there by an explosive passion that is also sometimes destructive. Verhoeven’s adaptation of the novel by Jan Wolkers is provocative in its use of graphic bodily functions: fucking, vomiting and shitting are meted out in equal measure as if to remind us that these are the honest expressions of our bodies in life’s few joyous moments of existence. What makes the film so effective, however, is the fact that this theme is played out with the subtlety of an atom bomb but also with an immense level of excitement and skill. Verhoeven’s camera careens effortlessly between scenes as Hauer and van de Ven live their lives with all the sense of children running with scissors, but he never judges them harshly and, when it comes time for a conclusion that threatens to be melodrama, does not turn them into emotionally manipulative saps.