Black Book


Paul Verhoeven :: Netherlands / Belgium / UK / Germany :: 2006 :: 2h25

The Dutch Jewish singer Rachel (Carice van Houten) has to flee Nazi troops in The Hague in 1945, but their escape boat is intercepted and her entire family shot dead and robbed. After her narrow escape, she joins the Dutch resistance under the name Ellis. Through the chaos and immorality of occupation, the brave Ellis bizarrely enough falls in love with an SS officer.

A curious and depressing story of a very strong willed -and beautiful- woman, who in the face of the horrors which History has flung into her face, tries all she can to end the tyranny, even after she has lost everything but her life. The movie develops slowly and realistically, aggravating the impact. An image of people, uniformed or not, caught up in a violent spiral of desperation who try to save themselves, or enrich themselves with the impunity of war. Not a flattering picture of mankind, but a reminder that war generally does not bring out the best in us (despite some noble heroics), should anybody have missed out on the last 50 years of war cinema.

It is unfortunate that such a talented (albeit mainstream) director resorts to making a World War Two movie on his return to Europe after all those years in exile on the other side of the Atlantic. It would have been a pleasant surprise to have made a science fiction movie or something at least contemporary set in The Hague, as the movie does not have much to add to all the other war movies which have been produced in The Netherlands over the years. Verhouven could have used his reputation to de-stigmatize our continent as one which lives in the past and has not done anything since WWII. Maybe next time, if Verhouven sticks around.


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