Published on February 23rd, 2009 | by Chris0
Black Book, aka Zwartboek (2006)
Black Book is a gritty tale of intrigue set in Holland during World War II. Director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Robocop) pulls no punches here, and the result is a really, really good picture.
A young Jewish girl, Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) finds herself without a hiding place after an Allied bomber ditches its load on her barn. She ends up on the run with the help of an old family friend, but things take a turn for the worse as the entire group of Jews she is with gets gunned down by the Nazis.
She joins the Dutch resistance, and infiltrates the local Nazi headquarters as a secretary to one of the chief officers, Muntze (Sebastian Koch.) Also stationed here is the man who killed her family, Franken (Waldemar Kobus.)
Under her new identity, Ellis de Vries, she falls for Muntze, who really isn't such a bad guy it turns out. During a botched prisoner rescue attempt, she's framed for being a double agent, and goes on the run with Muntze.
Well, of course she's found again, and the real conspirators are revealed and revenge enacted. I've left a lot out of the plot, because to tell you any more would completely spoil it, and for a film this good I just can't bring myself to do it. You'll just have to see it for yourself!
Verhoeven doesn't hold back anything here. There's a lot of frank nudity and sex here, along with a lot of to-the-point violence. You'll also be spending a lot of time with subtitles, unless your German and Dutch is up to snuff, but that's beside the point.
Black Book is the kind of movie that is at the same time attention-keeping and suspenseful, but also difficult to watch. It's really a moving picture at times, and takes some wicked twists and turns that you really don't expect. A few of them are quite obvious, though, and that only makes the final reveal even more of a shocker.
van Houten puts on quite the performance, as does the resistance leader Hans (Thom Hoffman) and Koch as Muntze. Kobus is just amazing as the slimy dirtball Franken. Every time you see him your skin will (and should) crawl just a bit.
Production-wise the movie is quite good as well. Never was there a moment I wasn't buying into the entire situation, either with the sets or the characters.
The ending also makes quite the anti-war statement, as we leave Rachel/Ellis many years later in Israel as the rockets and bombs start falling around the town/compound she is teaching in.
I couldn't find any decent clips from Black Book, but this trailer should give you an idea.
I watched Black Book via Netflix's Instant Watch on my new Roku Netflix player, and was quite pleased with the presentation, but as such didn't get any extras that might have been on the disc.
Summary: Black Book is the kind of movie that is at the same time attention-keeping and suspenseful, but also difficult to watch. It's really a moving picture at times, and takes some wicked twists and turns that you really don't expect. A few of them are quite obvious, though, and that only makes the final reveal even more of a shocker.