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Paul Verhoeven's Tricked
Paul Verhoven's experimental film Tricked was born out of a crowdsourcing campaign that allowed those who contributed to dictate where the story would go based off of a very brief four page outline written by Kim van Kooten. Plenty of submissions were made and from those submissions Verhoeven and his team pulled ideas and worked them into what eventually became the finished version of the movie. It's an interesting idea that saw the storied director pushed into new, uncharted territory.
Before we get to Tricked itself, however, we should talk about the fact that it is presented on this DVD release preceded by a documentary on its origins and production. This segment takes up the first third or so of the ‘movie' with the feature running about fifty minutes or so. This means that before we watch Tricked we're given a half hour crash course in how it came to be, what went into getting it made, what it was like working on the picture, and what the filmmakers were going through as they brought it all to some semblance of a coherent conclusion. This works both for and against the movie in that it allows you to appreciate how and why Tricked turned out the way that it did, but so too does it maybe pull back the curtain on the movie a little too much. It might have made more sense to set this aside in the supplemental section and let viewers choose to watch it before or after Tricked proper, but then, given that this is called Tricked, it might stand to reason that Verhoeven wanted it this way. If nothing else, certain parties are toying with audience expectations all the way through this experiment, and there's something admirable about going against the grain in that regard. When the piece ends, Verhoeven tells us this was a very personal project, but never bothers to explain just why that is.
As to the story, Tricked introduces us to a married woman named Ineke (Ricky Koole) who is all set to throw a fiftieth birthday party for her husband, a real estate wheeler-dealer named Remco (Peter Blok), despite the fact that he has and continues to be less than faithful to her over the years. The couple's daughter, Lieke (Carolien Spoor), and her friend Merel (Gaite Jansen) prepare for the big event by doing a few lines hidden away in her bedroom. Soon enough, as others are distracted by the arrival of various guests, the girls break into Lieke's brother's bedroom and find out that his feelings for his sister's friend are of an obviously sexual nature. Merel, meanwhile, has been playing around with Remco on the side, unbeknownst to anyone but the two guilty parties.
Things get even more complicated when a woman named Nadja (Salie Harmsen), who Remco had been carrying on with, arrives at the party to announce to her former beau that she is great with child. Before it's all over, Remco will find himself the victim of what would seem to be a very elaborate blackmail scheme.
A clear and well timed pot shot at the ignorance of certain members of the upper class, Tricked takes its bourgeoisie characters and puts them through a bit of a ringer. The plot, as you'd wager, is absolutely all over the place, the very nature of his this project was put together dictates this as necessity, but if nothing else the movie is interesting. At roughly fifty minutes in length it moves at a good pace and while it deals in seedy characters mostly doing seedy things to one another, it's entertaining enough. The director's penchant for black comedy and social satire is here, if not in as heavy handed a way as some of his better recognized sci-fi efforts, and the acting is very good across the board. It is, however, a disjointed effort, even if it is an entertaining one. It also lacks much of the style so often associated with his work. But hey, for a wonky crowd sourced ‘written by committee' style experiment, Tricked is at least both interesting and moderately amusing.The DVD:
Tricked arrives on DVD framed at 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen. Given the crowdsourced/low budget nature of this experimental feature, the picture looks more like a made for TV movie than the type of glossy feature you'd expect given the pedigree of the director behind it. Having said that, the transfer here is just fine. Detail is as good as the standard definition presentation will allow for and color reproduction is nice and natural. Some shots look a bit soft but this would appear to be the way that the movie was shot. There are no problems with compression artifacts and as this was shot digitally, obviously there are no issues with any print damage, dirt or debris.Sound:
The Dutch language Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds just fine as well. The levels are properly balanced and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. Again, the nature of the production plays a part here, this isn't a flashy or particularly impressive mix in anyway, but it gets the job done without issue and seems true to source. A Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included.Extras:
As far as the extras are concerned, Kino has supplied roughly twelve minutes of Behind The Scenes Footage (in two parts) that shows off what it was like on set and gives us a chance to see the cast and crew in action. This is moderately interesting as it gives us a chance to see some ideas that would appear to have been intended for the feature but that were clearly done away with at some point during the production. There are also two short featurettes on casting in The Hague and Amsterdam that run five and six minutes respectively. We also get a three minute interview with Carolien Spoor shot rather haphazardly at an awards show and a quick six minute interview with Paul Verhoeven, who really should have more to say about this project here than he does. Clips from the film playing at the Aruba International Film Festival and the Rome Film Festival are also found here. A trailer, menus and chapter selection round out the supplemental package for this release.Final Thoughts:
Tricked is a mixed bag, but it's an interesting mixed bag if nothing else. The film isn't always successful but by presenting it the way it is presented here, with the making of documentary up front and presented before the short itself, it's at least illuminating. Those looking for a more traditional narrative need not apply but if you've got an interest in how filmmaking works or just want to see Verhoeven trying something that no one else on his level would probably consider, check it out. A blind buy is a bit tough to recommend, maybe rent it first, but if you enjoy it Kino's DVD release looks and sounds good and contains a few interesting supplements.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.