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May 24, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Black Book

Black Book, the new film by Total Recall and Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven, is far and away the best Dutch film I have seen this year. Well, actually, I think it's the best Dutch film that I have ever seen, since it's probably the only Dutch film I've ever seen. Stick that on your posters, Sony! It's also far and away the best Verhoeven film that I've seen in ten years. Well, that's not fair, either - the last movie he directed was the abominable Hollow Man, and that was in 2000. Before that? 1997's Starship Troopers (one of my top Underrated Films) - and that movie kicks ass (albeit in a terrible way).

All kidding aside, though it's not really my style of film, Black Book is a solid movie - well acted (I think - it's mostly in Dutch, though there is a decent chunk of English in there as well), historically detailed (I'd say accurate, but I wasn't alive int he 40s) and intense. It takes places in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, focusing on a Jewish woman trying to stay alive at any cost, sacrificing parts of her soul and losing many individual battles along the way. Star Carice van Houten gives what many would call a "bare, revealing performance," but those are really just thinly veiled code words for "she gets naked a lot," which shouldn't be all that surprising considering the director. In fact, it would be somewhat shocking to not have brutal violence and nudity with Verhoeven at the helm.

However, Verhoeven manages to tone down his in-your-face stlye for the most part, turning Black Book into a mostly earnest period piece that tells an important story and could probably be mistaken for an Anthony Minghella or Merchant-Ivory production at times. The story is strong, with the only annoying thing being the never ending theme chiming in and telling you how to feel for much of the movie. We get it - this is a dramatic portion of the film - no need to beat us over the head with it.

Fletch's Film Rating

"Darn tootin!"

Finally, though I'm pretty sure no one reading this will recognize the name (much less care), I need to point out that Sebastian Koch (seen recently in The Lives of Others, reviewed here) gives a strong performance again here. If you happen to see either Black Book or Others, please let me know which American actor he reminds you of - I have a name on the tip of my tongue, but can't place it. Powers Boothe, maybe? The (non-American) guy that played the bad guy in The Fugitive? Anyway, help would be appreciated.

1 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Black Book"

Cha-lee said...

Sebastian Koch reminds me of the guy in V for Vendetta... the TV show host who also happens to be gay and owns a Koran.