For those who don’t know, Paul Verhoeven is known as an infamously hyper-realistic and sexual director; he’s the guy behind Basic Instinct and Showgirls. This, Turkish Delight, was the film that got him instant star director status in his native Netherlands, and in 1999 it was voted the Best Dutch Film of the Century. That’s a pretty high honor right there, and it ups my expectations of the film itself. So I sat down to watch the film, doing a little bit of research into it beforehand to make sure I wasn’t caught off guard in a bad way, and started the flick. Within ten minutes I knew I wasn’t going to like it. Not because it’s a bad film, but because it made me uncomfortable watching it. This film is the very definition of the word ‘gratuitous’, and for me, it was not pleasant.
We open on Eric Vonk, in his trashed studio, lying naked on his bed. From there, he brings home woman after woman, having sex, and then dismissing them without a car in the world. Turns out, he’d been dumped by Olga, seemingly the one woman in Netherlands who wants to have sex as much as he does. From there, we look back on how the two met, how their relationship went, how it ended, and how their story ultimately concludes, which I won’t spoil for anyone looking to watch this one. While I was watching this film, there was an overarching sense of perturbation that wouldn’t go away. About an hour into it, I finally understood; Eric, the main character played by Rutger Hauer, was an unlikable prick. He treats everyone around him like trash, and yet he gets more tail than any more deserving man should. Of course, some may argue that that’s exactly how certain men are able to get as much as they do, and to that end Verhoeven’s claim that his pictures only mirror reality rather than idealize it may be a bit justified, but this doesn’t make the film entertaining as a result. That and the film’s unbelievable freewheeling spirit of sexuality meant this was a harder watch than it should have been. I can’t fault the film’s technicals, which were about par and nothing too exceptional, but the manner in which this one told its story had just too much intentional shock value for me.
Really, that’s about all I’d say to summarize this film; a conventional “boy meets girl, loses girl, then finds girl again” plot, touched up by exorbitant amounts of sexuality and shock cinema. I mean, there’s a shot of a dog pooping onto a sidewalk, for absolutely no reason; what more do I need to say than that? Now, for what it’s worth, I can’t really fault the film for its decision to be gratuitous; it is well within the film’s rights to be however the heck it wants, but as I’ve said in the past whenever this little disclaimer has been brought up, that doesn’t mean the resulting film will be particularly watchable. Really, the only people I’d actually recommend they watch Turkish Delight are the people who’d get some jollies off of seeing all the explicitly naked women on the screen, and there are a lot of them. The film brings it together by the end, but by then, with the shock value and the dickish main character, I really couldn’t give two hoots about either of the leads. Who knows; you might be better inclined toward this one than I am. But if you are, I might give you a look like you need to take a couple showers back-to-back before I’d shake hands with you.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10