More intriguing in concept than in the execution, Paul Verhoeven’s Tricked (2012) realizes an interesting experiment: it’s a collaborative film that crowdsources its script. Starting from a handful of pages form screenwriter Kim van Kooten, the opening scenes were then screened to an army of writing students, who proceeded to pen the next section. After crews of film students filmed subsequent “episodes,” Verhoeven and his team sifted through the submissions, select the best bits of plot and dialogue, and reshot the following scenes to extend the original film. Advancing in this piecemeal fashion, with weeks in between shoots, the fifty-minute film Tricked results.
The mystery revolves around Remco Albrecht (Peter Blok), a shifty businessman having his fiftieth birthday party. The festivities are complicated by the unexpected arrival of Nadja (Sallie Harmsen), a pregnant young woman—who many suspect was Remco’s mistress. Is the baby Remco’s? Many seem to think so; indeed, even Remco’s family members have questions. But as the narrative gradually unveils new layers, more secrets and lies are exposed, revealing a devious plot.
Appending half an hour of “making of” documentary to the front of its actual narrative, Tricked presents a moderately interesting discussion of unconventional filmmaking craft. The most surprising aspect of the finished product is how coherent it is, despite its semi-improvisational genesis—although ultimately, it seems Verhoeven cherry-picked the passages that made the most sense, mixing and matching elements to ensure a satisfying shape. In a way, then, it may not be quite as “random” as advertised. Even so, as a viewing exercise it’s an unusual experiment, even if its front-loaded creative insights prop up a story that, while clever under the circumstances, is ultimately slight. But the cast—Blok, Harmsen, Jochum ten Haaf, Robert de Hoog, Gaite Jansen, Ricky Koole, Caroline Spoor—acquits itself admirably under unorthodox conditions, and it’s hard not to appreciate the unique collaborative spirit of the enterprise.