Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director of such US blockbusters as Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers, and the UK's FilmFour have partnered on an epic film adaptation of one of the most shocking episodes in Dutch history.

The partners are to shoot a film about the murderous aftermath of the seventeenth century shipwreck of the Dutch East India Company's flagship vessel, the Batavia.

Verhoeven has signed to direct an adaptation of Mike Dash's book about the incident, Batavia's Graveyard. Gerard Soeteman, Verhoeven's collaborator on earlier films such as Soldier Of Orange, is to adapt the book.

This is an exciting way of bridging the gap between Hollywood and Europe, said FilmFour deputy head of production James Wilson, who brought the project into the company. It's obviously not a small film, but it is also possibly too dangerous for down-the-middle, mainstream Hollywood.

The story tells how a Svengali-like mutineer, Jeronimus Corneliusz, takes control after the shipwreck on a tropical island off Western Australia. Corneliusz establishes a Fascistic community through charisma, hysteria and violence. He is opposed by a young soldier, Wiebbe Hayes, who was left for dead on a neighbouring island.