Synopsis: Erik Vonk (Rutger Hauer) is a carefree artist and ladies man until he meets Olga (Monique van de Ven), a beautiful young woman with an equal passion for sexual adventure. They marry in a frenzy of erotic ecstasy, only to find that real life has other plans. When Olga is struck by a tragic illness, Erik must make a searing choice between a lust that cannot be tamed and a love that refuses to die.
Critics worldwide called Turkish Delight one of the most powerful and explicit – love stories of all time. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers) and shot by Jan De Bont (director of Speed and Twister), the film became an international sensation as well as the most popular movie in Dutch history.
Turks fruit 8.0
eyelights: Rutger Hauer. Monique van de Ven. its zest for life.
eyesores: its abrupt third act.
I became a fan of Paul Verhoeven with ‘Basic Instinct‘. What I didn’t know at the time is that I was already a little bit of a fan, having been thrilled to bits by ‘RoboCop‘ and ‘Total Recall‘. I just didn’t know it yet: I was too young to notice or pay attention to filmmakers.
So it’s thanks to ‘Basic Instinct’ that I picked up ‘Turks fruit’, Verhoeven’s 1973 box office hit, which was released on DVD as part of Anchor Bay’s “Paul Verhoeven Collection”. Little did I know then that it is one the biggest Dutch films ever and a widely acclaimed one as well.
And little did I know what I was in store for.
‘Turks fruit’ is based on the popular semi-autobiographical novel by Jan Wolkers. It tells of the torrid and tempestuous love affair between Eric and Olga over the course of approximately two years. It’s notable for a frank sexuality which had it blocked from the Cannes Festival.
And it’s pretty sexy stuff.
Though it was eclipsed soon after by other erotic films, when I first saw it 15 years ago, I was stunned by how bold the picture was, showing the actors completely at ease with their bodies, unafraid and unashamed of their sexuality. It’s not especially graphic, but it’s audacious.
Verhoeven has always had an eye for shooting sex, and it’s no different here. In opposition to ‘Basic Instinct’, which was glossy, designed to titillate, ‘Turks fruit’ is raw, real, emotional. And yet he makes it appealing to the senses as well, using the locations as a canvas.
What makes the film particularly appealing is how believable the connection between Eric and Olga is. Though the situations they’re in aren’t always realistic, Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven had a chemistry that transcended any of the unlikely events we are shown.
Case in point, the way they meet, with Olga picking him up on the side of the road while driving a Rover erratically – only for them to hit a car park immediately. There was an immediate spark between them, one so potent, that it allowed us to believe that they could do this.
I’ve never been a fan of Rutger Hauer, finding his output after hitting Hollywood unmemorable. But there’s something to be said about his early years with Verhoeven (with whom he made a few films). He was striking then; there was a vitality and intensity to him that got lost later.
As for Monique van de Ven, I don’t recall seeing her anywhere else, but she made a remarkable debut here, plucked as she was from Theatre School before completing her studied in order to star here. Her Olga is a bit naive, but full of life – that is, until tragedy strikes.
Both actors are terrific navigating emotional highs and lows as they deal with their characters’ respective troubles: he with Eric’s temperament, and obsession over Olga, and she with the disorientation that eventually leads Olga to a hospital bed. They found their truths.
The picture is both a drama and a comedy; I’m pretty sure that the only way to describe it is as an erotic dramedy. On the one hand, the characters deal with intense situations, but on the other they are also very playful, if not irreverent, at times – as is Paul Verhoeven here.
A perfect example is when Eric and Olga are invited to the unveiling of a statue he sculpted and they are due to meet the Queen. When the organizers see that Olga’s dress is falling open, they choose to conceal the pair with the marching band instead of simply correcting the problem.
So here we have the Queen looking at the statue with Eric bouncing in the background, trying to be seen.
While Olga’s naked breasts flash the world.
The characters are so self-involved that they are unconscious of the impact they have on the world around them. Eric, for instance, weaves through traffic on his bike without a care, then tosses it without worrying where it will crash. They are imperfect yet endearing people.
Where the line is drawn for me is when, after a violent break-up, Eric pleads Olga’s mom to let him see his spouse and, the next morning, while the mother is out walking the dog, proceeds to initiate sex with a sleeping Olga. No joke. I simply couldn’t tolerate such a violation.
I just couldn’t.
It’s sort of in keeping with the character, however, who had been, before that moment, lying in bed daydreaming of revenge, imagining himself murdering whoever Olga was with now, before taking care of her as well. His revenge fantasies were a shocking way to start the picture.
And introduce us to our lead.
Thankfully, Eric sort of redeems himself at the end, caring for Olga dutifully when she’s at her lowest, alone and bedridden. Though it tortures him to see her this way, he stays by her side throughout. This at least showed that, despite his volatility, his heart was in the right place.
But that whole third act was a bit rushed for me. Though the picture begins abruptly and Eric and Olga’s relationship does as well, I felt like we were shoveled a whole lot of drama all at once. I really wish that there had been a little bit more equilibrium overall.
Ultimately, ‘Turks fruit’ is Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Love Story’: it’s a tragic tale that shows how potent love can be and yet how fragile it remains; even if it can survive the daily knives, unexpected events can stop it dead in its tracks. It can be there one moment and gone the next.
And that’s what makes it so powerful, unforgettable.
Date of viewing: February 4, 2017