Review: Black Book

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Sebastian Koch and Carice Van Houten in Black Book
Sebastian Koch and Carice Van Houten in Black Book



In some quarters the director Paul Verhoeven is now eternally infamous for Sharon Stone’s is she/isn’t she leg-crossing moment in Basic Instinct. But he came to prominence with a Second World War movie, Soldier Of Orange, in 1977. Black Book sees Verhoeven return to his native land, his native Dutch tongue and the 1939-45 war in an engrossing drama focusing on one young Jewish woman (played by the remarkable Carice van Houten), a member of the Dutch resistance who finds herself right at the heart of the Nazi war machine. It is a familiar genre but Verhoeven injects fresh elements into it – notably dark humour, lashings of nudity and a fuzzy delineation between goodies and baddies. So he’s not that far off the territory he explored in Basic Instinct. Where Verhoeven does strike out is in his examination of a claim that occasionally rears its head – that the Jews made mass extermination easy by being too passive. Verhoeven gives the lie to that suggestion simply and emphatically – in the shape of Van Houten’s redoubtable Jewish heroine. Black Book is a bold idiosyncratic film and a big return to form by the director. If there’s a quibble, it’s that towards the end the hitherto beautiful pacing is dropped in favour of a gabbled dash for the finish line. For a Dutch film the budget was huge (€16 million) but it looks to me like the money ran out, making this that rarity among films – a long film that really should be even longer.

© Steve Morrissey 2007




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Black Book (2006) Drama, Thriller, War | 145min | 18 May 2007 (USA) 7.7
Director: Paul VerhoevenWriter: Gerard Soeteman, Paul VerhoevenStars: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom HoffmanSummary: Israel 1956. Rachel, a Jew, rather unexpectedly meets an old friend at the kibbutz where she is working as a teacher. It brings back memories of her experiences in The Netherlands during the war, memories of betrayal. September 1944. Rachel is in trouble when her hiding place is bombed by allied troops. She gets in contact with a man from the resistance and joins a group of Jews who are to be smuggled across the Biesbosch by boat to the freed South Netherlands. Germans from a patrol boat murder them all however. Only Rachel is able to escape. She is rescued by a resistance group under the leadership of Gerben Kuipers. When Kuipers' son is captured after trying to smuggle weapons, he asks Rachel to seduce SS-hauptsturmführer Ludwig Müntze. Soon she will find out the attack in the Biesbosch wasn't a coincidence. Written by Arnoud Tiele (


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