Sort of a cross between “Love Story” and an earthy Rembrandt painting, this movie stars Rutger Hauer as a gifted Dutch sculptor who has a stormy, erotic, and star-crossed romance with a beautiful young girl. The story follows the arc of their relationship and his interaction with her family. Told in flashback form, initially Hauer is seen as a libertine lothario collector, taking trophies from his sexual conquests and pasting them in a book. He sees a sculpture he made of his lost lover and goes into a flashback of his relationship with his wife. He meets the girl, falls in love with/marries her, and we meet her parents: a charming, well meaning, bumbling father, and his shrew of a wife, who’s convinced Hauer’s too much of a bohemian to make a good mate for her daughter. Eventually, the petty jealousies, the sexual hijinks, and the climactic vomit scene prove too much for the marriage, and sculptor and his lady fair separate. Flash forward several months, and Hauer finds the girl back in Holland after an American sojourn. Their reunion is short lived; the somewhat melodramatic ending mirrors “Love Story”.
Watch it, it’s great! That’s all you need to know. End of review.
Okay maybe I’ll expand a little but you should really just stop reading this review and immediately find a way to watch this movie right now. I’m not a fan of romance flicks, I can’t really relate in my personal life. Now horror, that’s something I understand. But this works. For the first hour I’d say the movie is alive in a way that very few films are. The only predictable thing about that first hour is that it is always unpredictable. The movie eventually slows down to make way for plot, but it can be forgiven for that. I mean hell, it was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film back when the general public at least pretended like they cared about that category.
The first scene has our handsome leading man Erik Vonk (Rugter Haur) killing a couple in cold blood as they exit their vehicle. The rest of the film is separate from this act of violence and of the atmosphere it would appear to be presenting. We are then formally introduced to Erik Vonk, a Dutch sculptor, having a string of one night stands that end comically. He is disinterested in the women he sleeps with and instead obsessed with naked photographs of the woman we previously witnessed him killing in the opening scene. Finally we rewind back to Erik meeting this beautiful-beautiful red head, Olga (Monique van de Ven). You want to make a romance story you better give us a girl we can fall in love with, physically speaking at least. They deliver. Olga picks up Erik on the side of the road and what might have just been another fling is taken to another level after they get into a car accident together.
The two love birds enter a committed relationship against the wishes of Olga’s mean old mother and eventually tie the knot. What we see is an honest and realistic portrayal of a couple in the honey moon phase of their relation, constantly making love and overstating gestures of devotion to one another. The movie borders on soft P*rn at times. The couple are naked for a good majority of the film. Some of these scenes are sexually charged. Some are less flattering and just show the lovers spanning time while staying comfortably naked, making small talk, and bowl movements. Both of these people are crazy in their own way and they share a crazy love with one each other.
Finally conflict rears its nasty head after a solid bit of time is spent establishing these characters and their relationship. Olga leaves Erik for another man without Erik having the slightest clue, or at least ignoring all signs that Olga is unhappy. Up to this point Olga’s life was basically making love with Erik in their apartment. They were each other’s worlds. She finally starts to take trips to the outside world and regain a social life for herself. There is this great scene where Erik is at a dinner party with Olga’s friends and starts to put two and two together while in this situation surrounded by strangers that are not on his side. He does a great job of exhibiting that jealous rage any man can relate to and society’s reaction to this animal instinct. When Olga moves out of Erik’s house and announces her marriage to another man Erik acts out in unhealthy and morally unforgivable ways which includes raping Olga in his attempt to regain power and importance in her life.
As the story comes to a conclusion we learn that the murder in the opening scene was a fantasy. Erik eventually reconnects years later with a now single Olga and helps nurse her as she becomes sick and eventually dies. Personally I find it hard to sympathize with Erik after the scene depicting the rape of Olga. The film does forgive his behavior, something a movie made today would unlikely ever do, and I guess that does allow for the viewer to be more passive with judgments.
This is a very smart well-made film and something needs to be said for the comedic elements. Even though I wouldn’t call it a comedy or a romantic comedy it succeeds in its humor more than most films fitting those categories. There are many laugh out loud moments throughout the 90 some minutes. As comedy is always changing and evolving with the times it’s rare for me that a film over 40 years old could have a wit this sharp. Even rarer to laugh at something with subtitles.
This might be the most I’ve laughed while reading a film. So yeah, it’s kind of a timeless film. A gem. So if you haven’t seen this film and you still bothered to read this review to the end stop procrastinating and watch it now.