Paul Verhoeven (director)
BFI Film (studio)
02 December 2019 (released)
18 December 2019
This controversial Dutch drama from 1980 would be considered a darn side more controversial nowadays thanks to its portrayal of homosexuals, women, and disciples of the Christian faith. Dig deeper and you will find the story of three young men hoping to escape their dead-end existence via means of motocross racing engaging and thought provoking.
The film follows the hopes and dreams, but also the trials and tribulations, of three friends living on the outskirts of Rotterdam: Rien (Hans van Tongeren), his friend Hans (Maarten Spanjer) and Eef (Toon Agterberg), a mechanic. They all share the same goal: to become national motocross champions just like their hero Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer), who in turn entertains ambitions to win the World Championship in Motocross Racing. Rien’s parents own a local bar and are rather supportive towards their son’s ambitions. In contrast, Eef’s father is a strict bible-basher who sees evil in everything and thinks nothing of beating his grown-up son for stepping out of line and “hanging out with losers”. The three friends hope that if they make a name for themselves in the world of motocross racing it might help them escape from their dreary working class environment. On the other hand, Rien’s girlfriend Maya (Marianne Boyer), who works in a supermarket, is quite content with the simple things in life and dreams of a future happiness with her boyfriend.
The first half of the film depicts the daily goings-on of this little group in a rather light-hearted, occasionally even comical manner. The drama kicks in when ambitious, unscrupulously flirty Fientje (Renèe Soutendijk) and her brother Jaap (Peter Tuinman) arrive in town where they operate a mobile fast food stall (selling meatballs containing dog food!). Fientje sets her eyes on Rien straight away, much to the chagrin of Maya. Of course, Fientje has her own agenda for chatting up Rien: only too aware of his talent and potential success as a motocross racer she draws up a cunning scheme with sports reporter Frans Henkhof (Jeroèn Krabbe) which would put Rien on the international map… thus enabling her to kiss her own dreary existence goodbye. However, when Rien ends up paralyzed after a freak accident she quickly moves camp and begins flirting with Hans, while also getting involved with Eef who dreams of escaping to Canada. Aware that he needs plenty of money to do just that he robs and blackmails homosexuals which he spys on. He gets his comeuppance in a particularly unsettling scene during which he gets gang-banged so to speak by a bunch of gay men, led by Fientje’s brother Jaap of all people. It is Jaap who suggests to Eef that he is in fact a closet homosexual. Things take a turn for the worse when ever-loyal Maja tries to convince Rien to join her Christian group and that God will heal. But God doesn’t heal and Rien decides to end his life by steering his electric wheelchair onto a busy motorway…
Meanwhile, Gerrit Witkamp has indeed won the World Championship title and half the town seems to celebrate in the bar owned by Rien’s parents but then a gang of troublemakers start a fight and demolish the place. To rub more salt into the wounds of Rien’s father, the police inform him that his son has committed suicide. The poor man breaks down and decides to sell the place. Never missing a trick, Fientje immediatley senses her next opportunity and bamboozles Hans to take over the place, with her as the new co-owner.
SPETTERS refers to the Dutch word for ‘splatters’ in reference to the mud the motocross racers are covered in, and of course to the splatters of frying oil that Fientje and her brother Jaap are covered in. Incidentally, actor Hans van Tongeren committed suicide in real life while Marianne Boyer, who in the film portrays his girlfriend Maya, also died rather young. The film contains multipe scenes of graphic sex scenes which aren’t in fact necessary, perhaps director Paul Verhoeven thought it might attract bigger audience numbers. Far from it, SPETTERS had a bit of a rough time thanks to its scenes of ‘queer-bashing’ (not exactly sending a message of tolerance) while girls seem to be merely sexual objects. That said, the performances are convincing throughout, especially Renèe Soutendijk excels as the manipulative seductress who has everyone over without them even realising it.
This Blu-ray release also offers various Bonus Material plus illustrated booklet.