Black Book

Black Book

Film review by: Witney Seibold



Watching “Black Book,” I now know exactly what kind of breasts director Paul Verhoeven likes. His films may be about World War II, stripper slapfights, or giant space insects, but not a film goes by without at least one shot of a lithe, pale woman removing her top to reveal her cute, round, little handful-sized breasts to Paul and to the world. The breasts in question in “Black Book” are attached to star Carise Van Houten (which doesn’t sound like her real name), who plays a Dutch Jew surviving the war alternately as a Nazi general’s mistress and as a Resistance fighter.

            The story: The war is on. Rachel is forced on the lam when her Christian hideout has been accidentally bomber. She flees on ship with her family, only to witness them killed and looted by a secret Nazi patrol. She finds herself in the care of the Dutch underground who are well-organized, and are even openly negotiating with a local Nazi official named Müntze (Sebastian Koch). Rachel changes her name to Ellis, dyes her hair blonde (there’s even a scene where she is painting her own pubic hair; thank you Verhoeven), and begins an affectionate affair with Müntze. Eventually she uncovers a plot to kill wealthy Jews off the books, and loot their possessions. Then there’s another, oh, thirty minutes of film in which new plots are uncovered and resolved just as quickly, Resistance fighters turn out to be bastards, Nazi’s turn out to be o.k. guys, and twists and turns are piled on ad nauseum. It takes us a while to figure out what the titular book actually is.            Paul Verhoeven will always hold a soft spot in my heart for the gloriously horrible “Showgirls,” but I have trouble backing the over-the-top corny melodrama and convoluted plot twists of “Black Book.” The joke goes that if you want an Oscar, make a film about World War II. Verhoeven was obviously trying to make something Important-with-a-capital-I by delving into the political double-crossings of the Dutch underground and Jews hiding in plain sight, but only made yet another rip-roaring lurid soap opera about sex and power. It was an interesting lurid soap opera; I was never bored through the film’s 145-minute running time, and the photography and set designs were first rate. But I was never convinced by the proceedings either.             

Another thing that must be mentioned: Verhoeven and co-screenwriter Gerard Soeteman have been accused of sympathizing with the Nazis in “Black Book.” Yes, some of the Nazis are sympathetic, and many of the Resistance fighters (especially in many gruesome scenes after the war ends; don’t miss the spilled cauldron of human waste!) are depicted as being just as nasty to the Nazis as the Nazis were to them. But the film is so fluffy and so melodrama-oriented, that’s it’s hard to take such allegations too seriously. In fact, the people violently turning on the Nazis for revenge could be subject for an interesting revenge drama á la “
Munich.” This is not the film to deal with that. 

Published in: on May 11, 2007 at 7:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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