The film explores extreme poverty in late 19th century Holland among the proletariat, and their exploitation by the well-to-do. Based on an autobiographical novel (by Neel Doff), it follows Katjee's fortunes from the filthy tenement she shared with her parents and siblings, to her rise to high society upon marrying a wealthy man in Amsterdam. To call this film gritty would be an understatement - Mr. Verhoeven shoves raw realism in our face without constraints, but the manner in which it is directed establishes his dexterity in depicting difficult subjects elegantly whilst still remaining passionate. The cinematography in excellent and the performance by all the main actors impressive, particularly the actress portraying Keetje - Monique van de Ven - this is by far the best performance I've seen from her.
Keetje and family relocate to Amsterdam looking to better themselves, and move into a dirty, leaking single-room apartment - that's all they could afford. With the father perennially unemployed, it is up to the children to earn a living. The eldest daughter Mina promptly takes up prostitution, with full knowledge of family. Keetje has morals - she wants to study, but because the family need money, takes up a job as a washerwoman. Unable to hold that job, she joins a shop selling clothing accessories, where she is one day raped and deflowered by the employer. She falls ill and a doctor comes forward to help, obviously in exchange for sexual favours. She returns home fully cured to find her family are worse off than ever, and even her sister Mina is fired for turning up to work drunk. The only way is to take up her sister's profession, and shockingly the mother helps Keetje prepare for her streetwalking job. When an artist 'discovers' her, she starts moving among the right circles - bankers, land owners and so on, and her life changes for the better.
This is one of Paul Verhoeven's classics, and therefore Highly Recommended Viewing.
Amazon DVD Link.
Compilation: Hannah de Leeuwe and Monique van de Ven
- No nudity - Mina opens her legs for a sailor after being promised some bacon, but Keetje thought she was being molested and attacks him. Slutty Mina is played by the wholesome Hannah de Leeuwe, and Keetje by Monique van de Ven.
- Outrageous scene as Mina uses the toilet while her family are still dining. Followed by the father eagerly helping Mina into her 'red shoes' as she prepares to go streetwalking.
- Keetje is asked to do some work at the 'boarding school' - she's shocked to see her sister and two of her colleagues sitting naked in front of an old man. He sees Keetje and asks her to come in. When she refuses, her sister pleads her to help out, and she reluctantly agrees. While Keetje is exciting the elderly gentleman with her exposed underpants, Mina is busy masturbating herself to orgasm.
- Keetje's clothe-store employer asks her to stay behind and work late. Her innocence is shattered that night as she loses her virginity - the scene isn't particularly gruesome but it still has shock-value.
- The doctor 'examining' Keetje's lungs, surrounded by his understudies.
- The doctor asks Keetje to strip and puts across his proposal for her to consider (for getting herself cured).
- Keetje takes home some gifts when she gets well, only to see the squalor had deepened. Shameless Mina hands Keetje her red dress to take up prostitution.
- Keetje with her first client - he insists on examining her vagina to make sure she hasn't got any disease.
- Brief nudity as Keetje gets into Hugo's bed - a banker friend of the artist she poses for. They briefly become lovers.
- But Hugo isn't interested in marrying Keetje - he's aiming high to get ahead career-wise. A disgusted Keetje leaves him and symbolically burns the clothes he bought her at a bathhouse before slipping into the bath.