In 1997, American director Paul Thomas Anderson gave us an original insight into the American porn industry of the 1970s with his film Boogie Nights, a tale that displays a freewheeling homage to the glitter, tack and kitsch excesses of the drug-fuelled late ’70s and the hangover ’80s. In contrast to the savage events in this film, things were much more relaxed on the set of the film we’re going to extensively examine below.
Earlier this year we were approached by the now retired filmmaker Willem van Batenburg (1941, Utrecht) who responded enthusiastically to our activities at Shunga Gallery. Van Batenburg is one of the great pioneers of adult cinema (he worked part-time as a manager in an first action, later adult movie theater) in the Netherlands. Among other things, he is responsible for the first full-length porn film in Dutch movie theaters entitled Pruimenbloesem (Plum Blossom – 1982) that became one of the biggest box-office hits of 1982 with no fewer than 200,000 visitors.
Bet with Paul Verhoeven
A nice anecdote about this debut was that Van Batenburg received a letter from another Dutch filmmaker Wim Verstappen (with whom he remained friends until his death) in which he told him that he had a bet with Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct) about who would be the first to include a pornographic scene in his film and that he, Van Batenburg, had beaten them with Pruimenbloesem.
The film started with a budget of 50.000,- guilders , ending up through different stages at 260.000,- (equivalent to approximately $500,000 converted to today). a production time of 12 days (7 original and 5 additional) and was shot in various places in the Land of Maas and Waal, including the town of Batenburg (hence the director’s pseudonym) and inside the former villa of super criminal and master of the thermal lance Aage Meinesz in Altforst.
Before the filmmakers ended up with the Land van Maas en Waal as a location, a whole search had already been completed. They were looking for a large detached house. Detached in connection with the assumed status and financial position of the residents and furthermore because of the absence of prying eyes. Large, to make filming easier and to have sleeping and storage options. ‘Due to the modest budget, Amsterdam was an impossible task, especially if you’re talking about a porn movie’, explains Van Batenburg in his memoires.
Brothel Yab Yum
Yet they tried it at the most exclusive brothel in the Amsterdam, Yab Yum. It is located in a high canal house, so space would not be an issue. Van Batenburg is kindly received, but when asked if the film will look like the famous Emmanuelle film, he has to answer in the negative. What can he do with 75 grand against several million. The owner does not wish to jeopardize the indeed chic appearance of his club for a basically simple porn project, but refers him to another club. This one that lived up to its name ‘Red Palace‘, really everything is red from the beds, curtains, carpets, to the ashtrays and toilet seats, turned out to be unfeasible for reasons other than Yab Yum. there are still a few wanderings before they finally end up in the romantic landscape of Van Maas en Waal.
Diana de Koning
One of the main strengths of Pruimenbloesem is the lead actress Diana de Koning (1954, South Africa – Fig.2), whose friendly smile and natural appearance are compelling. She had once come along ‘just for fun’ with her friend who already had some experience in Van Batenburg’s short films. De Koning was also involved in the selection process of her male co-stars in the film. For example, she did not want to do copulation scenes with the actor who plays her older husband in the film.
‘When selecting the men, I start from the preference of my actresses, the director explained.’ I think that someone who gets something in her body is more vulnerable than the other. I test an actor first. He should be able to get an erection in front of a few people and maintain it for a while. There are people who can do that for a very long time and I’m talking about hours. Not fierce, but keep calm. An important condition is that they do not come too quickly, so they train for that.
Pruimenbloesem was shot during the hot summer days of July 1981. From the start, there is this special light, summery atmosphere surrounding the production that remains mysteriously present despite the inevitable difficulties. The sunlight gives an extra dimension to the feeling of full freedom, which can also be found in the film. Van Batenburg contracted Oscar Pettersson for the cinematography. He already had the necessary porn routine, and experience regarding glamour eroticism through his work for many advertising and fashion films. The lighting technician Ben Martinesz was unfamiliar with porn but cut from the same cloth in terms of the glamour aspect. Fearing an excessive gap in the budget, he looked for the remaining part of his crew in a semi-professional circle. Art-director, make-up, catering and a general assistant completed the recording crew. Van Batenburg himself would act as a camera assistant or operate a second camera if necessary.
The film is about the young nymphomaniac wife Myriam (Diana de Koning) who lives in a luxurious villa in the polder together with her older and rich husband Bert (Ivo Verlinden), where she has sex with men and women. She receives both men and women and that also in groups. She also has an ex-husband, Paul (Joost Messing), who regularly contacts and harasses her, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.
Hairy Pubic Area
In the opening credits we see Myriam and Emiel (Evert van Lingen) sitting naked on the bed together. Myriam initially eats two plums (a direct reference to the title). After that (already in the first two minutes) she lies spread out on the bed and we see Diana de Koning completely naked from head to toe. We also see her hairy pubic area and armpits (still fashionable at the time) and we also see Evert van Lingen’s penis. The latter starts eating her pussy and after a while Myriam commands him: “Now push a finger against my asshole.”
Halfway, the telephone rings, Myriam picks up the phone while Emiel is eating her pussy. It’s a woman-friend who is calling and Myriam tells her what is happening. When suddenly Bert (the voyeur) enters the room, Emiel is displeased and stops his oral acts, after which he leaves, while Myriam tells him that he is a simpleton who is not used to anything. Such a scene had never been shown in a porn film before (also internationally) and drew the viewer into the film.
After this scene that only shows cunnilingus between Myriam and Emiel, Myriam goes to the pool in the villa and lies there completely naked on an air mattress (Fig.3), smearing her body with lubricant after which she starts playing with herself. When she has finished masturbating, she meets Rudi Dijkhuizen (Frank Boogaard) in the villa, with whom she has dinner including Bert in the evening. We hear a voice over (of Myriam’s thoughts) in which she expresses of what she expects from a man. When Bert gets tired and already goes to bed, Myriam dives into bed with Rudi and is immediately fucked (so no foreplay), explicitly portrayed including Rudi’s cumshot (Fig.4 to 6).
The next morning Bert leaves the villa for work and when Myriam walks to her bedroom (to change), she finds Rudi masturbating. He says to Myriam: ‘I always say, a successful day usually starts with an erection.’ After this aphorism, nothing else happens and when Myriam gets dressed, she drives with Rudi to a friend of hers, Alma (Wilma de Winter), who think she’s selfish. Rudy already indicates that he has doubts about her plans for a threesome, and this indeed comes to nothing. Soon after arrival, the two girlfriends get into an argument (a rarity in porn) after which they settle it intimately (including kissing, playing with each other’s breasts and also sucking, eating and fingering) for about 8 minutes (Fig.7 and 8). In addition, you also see Wilma de Winter’s completely bald pubic area, which gives a nice contrast with Diana de Koning’s hairy pubic area.
Fig.7. ‘Women’s doubles in preparation for the mixed doubles‘
On their way back, they take the ferry where Miryam explains her ideas about the free sex life to Rudi. He concluded that she has some selfish traits and ignores her sensual advances (who would have thought that) when they’re back at the villa. The phone rings and the current lover listens to a conversation between Myriam and the jealous ex- husband Paul who she gets rid off quickly. This shows both Myriam’s urge for freedom and her harsh rejection of the needs of her ex-lover. Dismayed, the lover runs away to the greenhouse and there he touches the essential and focal point of the film, by asking Myriam: ‘Are hurt people the price to pay for sexual freedom?’ She replies: ‘Sometimes’. This theme was totally overlooked by the critics of the time.
Shortly after, Myriam’s sister Sandra (Tanja Overeem) and her boyfriend Arthur (Richard Wildens) make a wild entry in a beach buggy (including a ‘360’ spin). During the shooting of this scene, the director hoped that the auto spin would make the dress blow up like Marilyn Monroe’s over the subway vent in The Seven Year Itch (1955), but this was difficult to achieve due to the short recording period. After about 40 minutes into the film we end up in the villa’s bar where group sex takes place between Myriam, Rudi, Bert, Arthur and Sandra. The latter then blows the three men one by one (first Arthur, then Rudi and finally Bert). The earlier mentioned sexual freedom is further examined in the dart game in which is determined that the loser has to watch from a powerless (tied up) position (Fig.10 to 12). Then to be set free and fucked by two horny women was of course also an atypical result.
Tied to a Chair
Then they all go to a bedroom with a big bed (Fig.13 and 14), where Rudi is tied to a chair and he has to watch the others have sex with each other. Initially, there’s incestuous lesbian lovemaking between Myriam and Sandra (especially kissing and performing cunnilingus), after which she starts making love to Arthur and Bert then with Sandra (again explicitly visualized). After about 53 minutes, Myriam gives Arthur a blowjob and jerks him off as well, after which he cums in her mouth and face (that scene was captured quite nicely). We don’t see Bert cumming, after which Myriam and Sandra untie Rudi, who of course becomes completely horny (although he had a flaccid penis all the time) from watching. Both women then satisfy (blowing and jerking off) Rudi, with Myriam also pressing her pubic area in his face at one point. After about 59 minutes Rudi comes and it is Myriam who gives him a helping hand (Rudi comes in her hand).
The next morning, ex-husband Paul (Joost Messing in a somewhat redundant role) comes by with his car and there is an altercation between him and Myriam in the parking lot. He pushes her into his car and kidnaps her. Arthur (supposedly a racing driver) and Rudi are in pursuit and thus a car chase ensues over the narrow dikes in the polder (Fig.15 and 16). Of course it’s not The French Connection, also because they just drive one behind the other (overtaking is not possible either) and at a certain point Myriam convinces Paul to stop under a bridge, where Myriam separates from Paul. She gets in the car with Arthur and Rudi and they drive back to the villa. The final erotic scene of the film takes place in the pool of the villa.
Because Arthur and Rudi saved her, they should of course also be rewarded by Myriam and she does so in the pool, jerking off both men underwater and both men get to fuck her underwater in the form of a threesome (Fig.17 to 20). The whole scene, which takes place mainly underwater, has a graceful and dreamy quality that is exciting at the same time. At the end of that scene we see Arthur, Rudi and finally Myriam swimming out of the screen one by one, after which the film ends exactly at 73 minutes.
During sales attempts abroad, the film turned out to be too short, too slow and visually too little varied (meaning too few shots), not hard enough and included too few models. Most of these comments were correct, although something can be said about not being hard enough. For example, in Pruimenbloesem people were engaged in sex, while in many other porn films the picture was only filled with ‘sex machines’ in human form.
Unique Period Piece
Pruimenbloesem is a unique period piece that was successful both in theaters and on video (Fig.21) in the Netherlands. At the time, the film was too easily maligned by critics, but now decades later (with a revisionist revaluation), it is appreciated for its view on sex. Indeed, the 7 copulation scenes could have flowed into each other more excitingly (although the budget was too limited) and the characters could have had more background, but the individual erotic scenes themselves are fascinating enough partly due to the attractive presence of Diana de Koning. It is a professionally made film with beautiful camera work (Tom van Laren) and a sincere message about the liberating effect of eroticism. Pruimenbloesem is literally and figuratively a labor of love by Willem van Batenburg. Or as how Diana de Koning put it in an interview for a documentary on the filmmaker in 2015, ‘At the time people were just critical and only focused on the porn. They didn’t see the effort he (Van Batenburg) had to put in to deliver such a beautiful movie in that genre and with so little money.’
In the near future we’ll pay attention to the successor of Pruimenbloesem entitled ’n Schot in de Roos (A Shoot At the Dark) that was made a year later….!!
Pruimenbloesem can be watched without English subtitles on XHamster…!!
The director still has some copies left of his memoires (Dutch language). For those interested can contact us through the contact form!
Sources: All the unique images from the film are from the Willem van Batenburg archive/ collection/ Het Komt Allemaal Weer Omhoog (It All Comes Back Up) – De Memoires van een Erotisch Filmmaker (The Memoirs of an Erotic Filmmaker) by Willem van Batenburg/ Moviemeter (Theunissen)
Let us know your thoughts on Pruimenbloesem in the comment box below….!!