Dir: Paul Verhoeven. Neth-Bel-Ger-UK.140mins.
The prodigal son of Dutch cinema comes home from
Commerically, Black Bookwill be an interesting market test. It features four languages - Dutch, German,English and Hebrew - during its course, so some subtitling will be inevitable inmost territories (dubbing would really kill its case about the fragile identityof the Dutch language in and out of wartime). It's not going to be that straightforward,either, to market a feature that is not quite a committed Holocaust drama, not quitea gung-ho war film and not quite a action-adventure romp: rather this is almosta case of The Pianist meets The Third Man meets Kill Bill.
Recouping its $20m budget willneed wide exposure: not a problem in Europe, where a whole raft of distributors(including Tartan in the UK and Pathe in France) havealready bought Black Book, comforted nodoubt by its muscular auxiliary prospects. It has yet to be sold to the
The action begins in occupied
After dyeing her hair blondeand changing her name to Ellis De Vries, Rachel becomesthe secretary and lover of Muntze (Sebastian Koch), aNazi-with-a-conscience who is attempting to negotiate a secret truce with the Resistance.But when Rachel is double-crossed and accused of treachery, she is forced to goon the run from her former comrades-in-arms.
Plot switchbacks and reversalsabound, and the whole thing moves along at a cracking pace. There's a breezy brioto the exercise, refreshing in a film that touches on such dark themes; in Black Book, Verhoevencomes on like a contemporary David Lean, though the film lacks the final emotionalpunch of, say, Doctor Zhivago.In fact, Verhoeven and his co-writer Gerard Soeteman (who also wrote Verhoeven'slast World War Two film, Soldier Of Orange)are anxious to assure us that the heroine will come out of all this just fine:the first of the film's bookends shows Rachel happily works on a kibbutz ten yearsafter the end of the conflict.
The director clearly has an axeto grind with the more extreme elements of Dutch Protestant culture; the criticismis at its most strident in a lurid, gratuitously nasty scene near the end involvingRachel and a group of other prisoners accused of collaborating with the Nazis.
But overall Verhoeven's direction is assured - and it's backed up by animpressive range of technical contributions, from Independence Day cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub'sepic widescreen photography - enhanced by lighting that verges on the theatrical- to the crisp period costumes and production design.
The acting from the pan-Europeancast is solid throughout, but it's Carice Van Houten whoreally compels the camera's, and the audience's, attention,with her ebullient account of a resourceful, fun-loving girl in a dark hour.
Egoli Tossell Film
Motion Picture Investment Group
VIP Medienfonds 4
San Fu Maltha
Jos van der
Frans van Gestel
Karl Walter Lintenlaub
Wilbert van Dorp
Job ter Burg
Carice van Houten
Derek de Lint