Black Book

"OK"

Black Book Review


Right around the time that the star actress of the Dutch WWII film Black Book -- in which she plays a Jewish woman cozying up to the Nazis as a pretend gentile in order to help the resistance -- takes a careful moment to put blonde hair dye on certain more private parts of her body, one suddenly remembers, ah yes, Paul Verhoeven is directing this, isn't he? It's a pity that as a director, Verhoeven's instincts trend so adamantly toward the punishingly crass, because he had in his hands the root of quite a good film here, a thoughtful thriller that can ultimately be seen only in occasional glimpses.

Quite the best thing Verhoeven has going for him is his fantastic Dutch cast, headed up by Carice Van Houten in a relentlessly fearless performance as the singer Rachel Stein, who is forced into one morally compromising position after another. The film starts in 1944, when Stein has been in hiding for years, but is sent on the run after an errant Allied bomb destroys her hideout. As a former singer, she's able to take on new personas with great ease, but there's always a tough brightness about her, the statuesque ease of someone who's accustomed to being stared at and fought over.

As such, it isn't much surprise to see how easily Stein is able to win the confidences of both the Dutch resistance and the local Nazi commanders, bedding an appropriate man from either camp along the way. The script that Verhoeven wrote (with Gerard Soeteman) is based on heavy research into the period, and touches on a good number of weighty topics, most especially the frying pan and fire situation that European Jews found themselves in during the war, being overtly hunted by Nazis on the one hand, and more covertly being despised and opportunistically taken advantage of by other, occupied Europeans.

In such desperate circumstances, especially in the film's time period (everyone knows the war is ending, and is starting to figure out how to politically position themselves best for the aftermath), it is not at all shocking that somebody like Stein would go so far as to romantically entangle herself with an officer like the Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch). However, Verhoeven rather cynically and easily allows Müntze to play the handsome officer (it isn't quite clear if he's Nazi SS or a Dutch collaborator) with a conscience while having another Nazi, the thick-browed and thuggish Franken (Waldemar Kobus) be the heavy who helped massacre Stein's family. See, Müntze is the nice Nazi.

It's this desire to have it both ways that dooms Black Book. Verhoeven wants to make a WWII thriller, and to that end, he has performed amazingly. The film clips right along from one tense confrontation to the next, the screen fairly popping with the drama, all fedoras, train stations, and resistance fighters who can smoke jauntily while shooting Nazis. However, the film also wants to explore issues with some serious moral gravity. Thus its two impulses often work at cross purposes, the more base desire to entertain -- Verhoeven's perverse tendency to shove his unique blend of cartoonish violence and raw sexuality into the audience's face -- often cheapening its more serious material and practically wasting many of the great performances on show here.

Black Book is the best Verhoeven film since Basic Instinct -- if only that were a bigger compliment.

Aka Zwartboek.

What are you going to do? Charge her with not smoking?



Black Book

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Thursday 14th September 2006

Box Office USA: $4.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $26.2M

Budget: $21M

Distributed by: Sony Picture Classics

Production compaines: Fu Works, Clockwork Pictures, ContentFilm International, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Media Programme of the European Community, Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA), Euroimages Fund of the Council of Europe, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, CoBo Fund, Nederlands Fonds voor de Film, uFilm, VIP 4 Medienfonds, Hector BV, Motel Films, Motion Investment Group, Studio Babelsberg, Egoli Tossell Film AG

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 114 Rotten: 36

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Jos van der Linden, Frans van Gestel, Jeroen Beker

Starring: as Rachel Stein / Ellis de Vries, as Ludwig Müntze, as Hans Akkermans, as Ronnie, Waldemar Kobus as Günther Franken, as Joop, Theo Maassen as Prison Guard with Baret, as Gerben Kuipers, as General Käutner, Dolf de Vries as Notary Wim Smaal, Peter Blok as Van Gein, as Rob, Ronald Armbrust as Tim Kuipers, Frank Lammers as Kees, Johnny de Mol as Theo, Xander Straat as Maarten, Diana Dobbelman as Mrs. Smaal

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.