Netherlands/France 1998

Reviewed by Andy Richards


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Amsterdam, the present. Flatmates Hugo and Goof's 'work' consists of seducing female backpackers, then stealing their cash and the identity pages from their passports, which they keep as souvenirs of their conquests.

Hugo moves in on a US tourist, while Goof is left with her friend Lara, a Siberian traveller. Goof and Lara warm to each other, and he invites her to move in with him. This antagonises Hugo. Lara encourages Goof's affections, but won't sleep with him. Goof asks Hugo to split the stolen money, so that he can go to Siberia with Lara. Hugo suggests an alternative: the first to collect 15 passport pages from girls of different nationalities wins the whole pot. While Goof is out scoring, Hugo and Lara start having sex.

As tensions rise, Hugo forces Lara to leave. Goof tries to stop her and they end up making love. Lara steals their savings and takes refuge in a youth hostel. Goof bleaches his hair and, with Hugo, raids the hostel, reclaiming the money from Lara. He also takes revenge on Hugo by poisoning him and leaving him to take the rap for the break-in. In an epilogue, Hugo and Goof are reunited in Siberia, accompanied by a husky named Lara.


It is pretty standard form in the male buddy movie for disruptive female elements to be, at best, marginalised or, at worst, brutally expelled. Following in a tradition of love-triangle films including Trapeze (1956) and The Fabulous Baker Boys, Siberia's complacent male partnership is rocked by the arrival of an opportunistic woman, one who proves - for a while - to be even more adept at the hustling game than the men. But it's wholly in line with the casual sexism of Robert Jan Westdijk's film that Lara, newly arrived in Amsterdam from Siberia, rather than being given her due as a worthy sparring partner for thieves Hugo and Goof, is conned back out of the money she stole from them and ends the film ranting in frustration. Lara may be too tough to fit into the mould of victim, but the film can't see her in any way other than conniving femme fatale. This unsatisfying sense of double standards (Hugo practically rapes her at one point) only compounds Siberia's uncertain tone.

Siberia's troubling sexual politics seem to spring from its attempt to adopt the freewheeling attitudes of its young protagonists. At first, Hugo and Goof's behaviour - they seduce young travellers, then steal their money - seems rebellious, if only because their victims are so bland and gullible. In this sense, they recall Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere's horny thieves in Bertrand Blier's Les Valseuses (1974). But while Blier's film made a virtue of its semi-improvised narrative, Westdijk is shackled to a plot and script that heavy-handedly chart the shifting allegiances within its central ménage à trois. In an attempt to distract us from his narrative shortcomings, Westdijk opts for an array of pop-promo flourishes (jump cuts, strobe effects, pounding techno music) that quickly seem oppressive and contrived (a charge also levelled at Westdijk's first feature, the pseudo-documentary Zusje). The film is most successful in its early sequences, where Westdijk convincingly depicts Amsterdam as a hedonistic Mecca for backpackers, ripe for exploitation by Hugo and Goof (who discuss scamming their victims in front of them, confident that no-one understands Dutch).

Westdijk's cast make a decent go of bringing to life their under-developed characters. Hugo Metsers heavy-pedals the roguish charm as Hugo, while Roeland Fernhout, as the mild-mannered Goof who cons his partner in crime, is a creditable worm-who-turns. Debut east European actress Vlatka Simac, proves the film's strongest card, playing Lara with a sullen intensity that, in the film's darker moments, suggests the seeds of a more complex movie stranded within Siberia's wastes.


Robert Jan Westdijk
Clea de Koning
Robert Jan Westdijk
Jos Driessen
Director of Photography
Bert Pot
Herman P. Koerts
Art Director
Anouk Damoiseaux
Junkie XL
©The Siberia Experience C.V.
Production Companies
A Partners of the Siberia Experience C.V./Stichting Nederlands Fonds voor de Film/Stichting Co-productiefonds Binnenlandse Omroep/ Stichting Young Cinema
Support/Nederlandse Programma Stichting/ Procirep Société des Producteurs de Cinéma/ Cineco Award co-production
Production NPS
Monique van Welzen
Production Manager
Djoemila Viegen
Location Manager
Jan Scholte
Assistant Director
Tom Raey Maekers
Script Continuity
Carolien Euser
Pieter van Rijn
Emmie Leenen Casting
Toasted Film
Jeannet Snik
Hans Kemna
Fox Casting
Peter Alderliesten
Costume Designer
Ciska Nagel
Hester Heideman
Marleen Holthuis
Hair Adviser
Wouter Segers
Title Sequence
Paul Postma
John Mallerman
Peter Hamelinck
Titles Leader
Lukkien Digital Film Facilities
End Titles
Image Creations
Additional Music Score
Fons Merkies
Music Editor
Ferry de Pater
Hans Ravestein
Mark Weßner
Dubbing Mixer
Wim Post
Supervising Sound Editor
Harold Jalving
Sound Editors
Eric Leek
Vincent van Rooijen
Huibert Boon
Hugo Metsers
Roeland Fernhout
Vlatka Simac
Nicole Eggert
Johnny Lion
Jessica Stockmann
Nefeli Anthopoulou
Alessia Sorvillo
Francesca Rizzo
Syan Blake
Katja Dreyer
Bente Jonker
Eddy Terstall
Jos ten Bosch
Elisabeth Estaras
rough girl
Carolien Zimmermann
Karin Brunner
Lara, the dog
Metro Tartan Distributors
7,827 feet
86 minutes 58 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011