Close the Book on this one

Black Book

on April 04, 2007 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Dutch bad boy Paul Verhoeven's first locally made film in 25 years is liable to engender as much controversy as his American movies Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Like those films, Black Book is well made but pointless trash that isn't afraid to go over-the-top or offend audiences. Laudably, Verhoeven has long wanted to make a revisionist movie that exposes the anti-Semitism of the Dutch and punctures the myth that most of his countrymen covertly or overtly resisted their German occupiers.

Black Book thus proffers a vicious Dutch resistance that's as ugly as the worst of the Nazis and, conversely, presents a decent SS officer (Sebastian Koch) who captures the heart of Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten), the film's Jewish heroine. The former portrait, however, is overdone and the latter in very bad taste. But Verhoeven obviously doesn't concern himself about such niceties, choosing instead to craft outlandish scenarios that play out like a gung-ho Hollywood movie — would you believe a group of resistance fighters busting into Gestapo headquarters to free one of their own, utilizing architectural blueprints of the place? — or come up with the grossest scenes imaginable, such as Rachel being doused with feces by said resistance.

What Verhoeven hasn't done is put any rhyme or reason into his tale, so as to say anything valuable or thoughtful about the movie's historical time period. The film may ostensibly deal with serious issues such as collaboration, the fight to survive and the need for forgiveness or revenge, but they're really just window dressing for Verhoeven's elaborately assembled but empty set pieces. The expensive and expansive Black Book looks gorgeous, and there's no denying Verhoeven's genuine filmmaking talent, but, unless you perceive this film as a satire, which some will, it's liable to leave you cold. Distributor: Sony Classics
Cast: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch and Thom Hoffman
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Screenwriters: Gerard Soeteman and Paul Verhoeven
Producers: San Fu Maltha, Jens Meurer, Teun Hilte, Frans van Gestel and Jeroen Beker
Genre: Drama; Dutch-, German- and Hebrew-language, subtitled
Rating: R for some strong violence, graphic nudity, sexuality and language
Running time: 145 min.
Release date: April 4, 2007 NY/LA

Tags: Cast, Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch and Thom Hoffman Director: Paul Verhoeven Screenwriters: Gerard Soeteman and Paul Verhoeven Producers: San Fu Maltha, Jens Meurer, Teun Hilte, Frans van Gestel, Jeroen Beker, Drama
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