By 1973, several European films with graphic nudity had broken down censorship barriers, and what's still regarded as the most successful Dutch film is really a dramatic tragedy, not an arty nudie film.
Based on the best-selling semi-autobiographical novel by Jan Wolkers (which, in spite of destructive character relationships and sexual exploits, became required reading in schools), longtime Verhoeven scribe Gerard Soeteman stayed faithful to the book, and Verhoeven's penchant for in-your-face details are in tune with Wolkers' tale of an artist and full-time cocksman who has trouble dealing with his wife's selfish mother, and the inevitable demise of an intense courting and marital relationship.
Verhoeven's shock tactics are easy to point out - not just the frank full-frontal nudity, but basic bodily functions that sometimes splatter across the screen - but the film's continuing legacy as a classic of Dutch film and human relationships is due to the filmmakers' fidelity to the source material, and superb casting of then-newcomer Monique Van de Ven, and Rutger Hauer.
When accompanied by an actor, writer or producer, Verhoeven is a ludicrously animated commentator; frequently shouting and distorting a track's recording level. For "Turkish Delight," the director flies solo, and though less excited, his love for film is omnipresent. Much of the track deals with the film's characters, and he points out several obvious plot points that aren't wholly necessary, but it's an enjoyable journey as he discusses the excellent cast - Hauer having worked with the director on the popular Medieval TV series "Floris" in 1969; and Van de Ven then making her film debut at the age of 20 - and his working relationship with cinematographer Jan de Bont (who later married Van de Ven).
The track starts off on an amusing note as Verhoeven says he first met Hauer while working on a TV series for children (the director of "Showgirls"? "Basic Instinct"?), and he describes working in Holland at a time when the film industry was very small, using locations not for production value, but due to the lack of studios and service industries. Hardly a slam on the native arts community, Verhoeven remains proud of his roots, and notes Holland's respect and celebration for its own artists - whether they stay or work abroad - which makes for an interesting comparison to Canada's self-flagellating attitude towards its own talent and film industry. There's also some mention about the film's neo-realist, rough-and-naked cinematography that Verhoeven regrets he couldn't get away with today, as his Hollywood product mandates an 'accessible' visual style for the widest audience.
Included on the disc is the film's original Dutch theatrical trailer (which makes good use of the film's excellent soundtrack, with vocal and harmonica solos by the inimitable Toots Thielman, but contains major spoilers), a still gallery of production shots (with humorously blocked male genitalia); and Anchor Bay's regularly informative biographies, incorporating several self-effacing quotes by the film's two leads and director.
This title is available separately, or as part of the "The Paul Verhoeven" boxed set (DV11957). The slickly designed set includes "Business Is Business," "The 4th Man," "Katie Tippel," "Soldier of Orange," and "Turkish Delight" and plus a 12-page colour booklet.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan