Archive for the ‘Paul Verhoeven’ Category

Black Book

Black Book

Went to a screening of ‘Zwartboek’ (Black Book) attended by the director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Totall Recall, Basic Instinct). It is his first film made in Holland for two decades, since he took up residence in LA.

So it is an engaging blend of European film and American movie. It combines the strong narrative drive of the former, complete with car chases and tense thriller moments, with the complex characterisation of the latter and precise sense of historical moment.

Verhoeven has that easy Dutch charm and (to my ears) irresistable accent (I think of my old friend Mirjam saying “lecker”) and speaks interestingly about gradually losing the passion in his projects, hence this return to Europe for a passion project, seemingly some 20 years in the gestation. He has applied the storytelling backbone and action forms of Hollywood to a complex political and historical subject with many shades of grey.

The lead actress, Carice van Houten, a theatre performer well known in the Netherlands, is very charismatic and accomplished. Verhoeven said he knew she had the lead role, Ellis, which demands being on screen for most scenes of a long movie, within 20 minutes of the casting session, the kind of casting he could never have done with a Hollywood name (they deem any such thing an insupportable insult). He carried on casting for a couple of days but knew he had his woman.

The emotional core of the film is subtly contained in the bedroom scenes, indeed in the bed, of Ellis, the undercover Jewish resistance member, and Muntze, the Nazi commander. A strange love develops between them which is entirely convincing. It is here that the emotional experience is focused – more than the slaughter of betrayed Jews and even the unwarranted humiliation of an innocent ‘collaborator’.

It would be good to see more European fiilms with the high entertainment values of this thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking work.

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