Once accused of being a homophobic, mysogynistic, 'amoral' sexist, Paul Verhoeven is now considered one of the most successful filmmakers the Netherlands has ever produced. Thirty years after its controversial première – Verhoeven was attacked by angry feminists during a broadcast of the Sonja Barends' talkshow – EYE has restored Spetters to its former glory in the director's cut. In Spetters, Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Gerard Soeteman follow the lives of three youths from the provinces who are crazy about motorcross racing and Fientje from mobile chip shop 'De Happies-hoek'.
The result is a raw portrait of rural youths who have a preference for roaring around on motorbikes, casual sexual encounters, and beating up reputed homosexuals without thinking twice. Meanwhile, Fientje ("Life is like a croquette: once you know what's inside, you no longer want it") draws up her own plan and plays the boys against each other. Verhoeven chose the then unknown Renée Soutendijk, Toon Agterberg, Hans van Tongeren and Maarten Spanjer for the cast. Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé and Peter Gardener, amongst others, are in supporting roles.
When it was released, Spetters pulled in an audience of more than 1.1 million. Despite the commercial success, however, Verhoeven and Soeteman were overwhelmed with scorn and derision: their portrayal of the youth was deemed 'amoral', 'flat' and even 'fascist'. Verhoeven was even besieged by angry feminists at Sonja Barends' talkshow who saw it as a paragon of cynicism and sexism. Nowadays, Spetters is considered the first Dutch film in which youth culture is brought to the screen in an honest, non-revealing way.
For Paul Verhoeven, Spetters appeared to be his ticket to Hollywood. The film was received considerably better there than in the Netherlands: Rolling Stone magazine even described the lead actress Renée Soutendijk as 'a Dietrich in glitter pants'.