« Attempting to Get a Vibe… | Main | Honest and Engaging… »

September 13, 2006
Ah, Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven’s first Dutch-language film in 23 years, "Black Book" is a fundamentally entertaining feature that manages to be intriguing and suspenseful throughout most of its 2 hour and 15 minute running time. But the film is ultimately uneven and could have been better with some re-imagination.

The movie tells the story of Rachel, a young Dutch Jewish woman near the end of the Second World War. The layered character is brilliantly played by Carice von Houten, who truly carries the film on her back. After tragedy strikes her life, she soon finds herself working in the Dutch Resistance. With her good looks, smarts and ability to charm, she is before long working undercover in the Nazi police offices.

Unsurprisingly, the story turns into a suspenseful cat and mouse game with von Houten’s character finding herself in many perilous situations. As this is, after all, a Verhoeven film, it’s not surprising many – nay, make that most – of these situations are sexual in nature. (This works to a certain extent, but ultimately ends up being overplayed). The film, while gripping, is also a surprising amount of fun throughout much of its running time, with the pace becoming quicker after having sagged a bit at the very beginning. The musical scenes, in particular, are bursting with energy.

Alas, the third act of the film contains so many plot complications that I lost track of them. I will say that I was legitimately surprised with many of the turns in the plot. But the tone changes so often – after having been built steadily throughout the film – that it really feels out of place. Many of the ideas tossed in here are good, but tossing them all in the last 30 minutes of the movie was not a great idea.

Moreover, the film didn’t really need to be 135 minutes long. A complete rewrite would be needed to save the last 40 minutes but there are superfluous and slow-moving moments that didn’t need to be there. Had the film been less than two hours, it would have made an already intriguing and suspenseful narrative even moreso.

I have little doubt that Verhoeven – and his fans – are pleased with this movie. And I certainly enjoyed it. Might I also that I’m personally happy to see him once again working in his native tongue (his recent Hollywood efforts would be better off forgotten). Though he does also manage to integrate English and German flawlessly into the film which is not always an easy thing to do. Yet the film strikes me as a tad too ambitious for its own good…and somehow feels less than the sum of its parts.


I saw Blackbook (Zwartboek) and I think it's great movie. Go see it. Also the extended behind the movie scenes are superb. www.zwartboekdefilm.nl
My favo scene in the movie is the bullit removal scene. We see often only 'Anglo' actresses end up withn an award, but now after seen Blackbook I think Carice is one of the best actresses and most talented there is on the moment. She acts not only on the white screen but also in plays, and sings and other stuff. It's a multi talent.
The early work of Paul Verhoeven (movies like 'Turks fruit' and 'Soldaat van Oranje') are also great.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)