Black Book


"Encompasses the best and very worst of its director's signature pulp brutalism, which means it's pretty much a hoot." — Manohla Dargis, NY Times
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Year: 2006
Running time: 147 mins

The Netherlands/Belgium/UK/Germany
Screenplay: Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven
Photography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Editors: Jobter Burg, James Herbert
Music: Anne Dudley
In Dutch, German, English and Hebrew, with English subtitles
R16 violence, offensive language, content may disturb

With: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint

Festivals: Venice, Toronto, London 2006

The director who blitzed Hollywood with such pulp classics as Basic Instinct, Robocop and Showgirls takes everyone by surprise with a return to the World War II drama canon, 30 years after Soldier of Orange. Described by critics as brash, provocative and outrageous, with more topless women than a Riviera beach, Paul Verhoeven's first Dutch film in 20 years is also a bold, wilfully irreverent and morally complex film about the Holocaust. Rachel Stein (played with ferocious energy by Carice van Houten) is a sexy Jewish singer in the Dutch underground resistance movement who signs up for the ultimate Mata Hari assignment: to seduce Ludwig Muntze (Sebastian Koch), the head of the Gestapo in The Hague. Falling in love with him is not part of her plan. "Verhoeven and his screenwriter Gerard Soeteman return to the ground they explored in Soldier of Orange to reveal something entirely different: that the Dutch underground was marbled with anti-semitism, that some high-ranking Nazis knew they were trapped in a matrix of insanity, that war can be fun, that liberation can be terrible, that revenge against Nazi collaborators can unleash new forms of ugliness no less horrific than Nazism itself, that Israeli kibbutzim offer no refuge from permanent war. A study, in the thriller context, of the harsh reality that to survive a war is to live though a chain of moral contingencies, so that the Nazi you are trying to defeat today may be the one that you love tomorrow, and that even your closest friends may have things to hide. Verhoeven likes to call this his return to ‘reality,' by which he means his flight from Hollywood's fantasy machine." — Robert Koehler, Cinema Scope