Zwartboek (Black Book) - Paul Verhoeven

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Zwartboek (Black Book) - Paul Verhoeven

Postby Evil Hobbit on Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:04 am

Couldn't find a topic yet so I just post it here. If there is one, feel free to move it.

It appears that the new Paul Verhoeven film Zwartboek had a standing ovation on the Venice Film Festival. Both Variety and the HollywoodReporter speak highly of the film.

Variety:
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117931442?categoryid=31&cs=1
"Hollywood-honed tech smarts and European character sensibilities mesh entertainingly in pacy WWII resistance thriller "Black Book," helmer Paul Verhoeven's first feature in his native Netherlands for more than 20 years. Fictional tale, about a young Jewish woman who falls for a Gestapo officer while seeking revenge for her family's murders, moves like an express train across almost 2½ hours without any sense of rush and with strong, empathetic characters etched en route".

En Carice van Houten krijgt ook (terecht) veel lof:
"Rarely off-camera, Van Houten, only 29, throws herself into the part of a lifetime, with a face that can spin on a dime between fear, defiance, caprice and caring. But for all of Verhoeven's technical skills, the film still wouldn't work without her on-screen chemistry with Koch (the writer in "The Lives of Others"), who makes Muentze a tragically flawed figure rather than simple villain".

Hollywood reporter:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/reviews/review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003086879
Paul Verhoeven's World War II drama "Black Book" is an ambitious throwback to the days of rousing all-action wartime pictures in which an intrepid loner risks everything to fight a clearly defined enemy. It succeeds on almost all fronts. The epic film is a high-octane adventure rooted in fact with a raft of arresting characters, big action sequences and twists and turns galore as a group of Dutch resistance fighters combat the Nazis not knowing they have a traitor at their core.

Top-flight production values and a ripping yarn should mean major boxoffice returns anywhere there is a taste for old-fashioned big-screen entertainment.

(...)

Director Verhoeven, back on home turf after the Hollywood excesses of "Starship Troopers" and "Showgirls," has fashioned an exciting tale with co-scripter Gerard Soeteman, who developed the original story. Production designer Wilbert van Dorp and cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub have done a great job in creating period detail and capturing fast-moving sequences and intimate moments. Editors Job ter Burg and James Herbert contribute fine work, and Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley's score complements it all effectively.

Van Houten makes a memorable heroine, a singer as well as a good actress, in what is a very punishing role. Koch and Hoffman do a lot to give their stereotyped roles some originality.

The filmmakers strive hard to root the picture in genuine drama. There are bookends set in Israel that add considerable emotional resonance. While the revelation of the traitor smacks of melodrama, the high adventure is mixed with moments of authentic wartime pathos".


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Can't wait to see it, it'll come out here in the Netherlands this thursday, I'll be there.
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Postby doglips on Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:12 am

Here's the trailer......
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:01 pm

Howdy all. I half-wrote this review way back in October, during the London Film Festival, but various distractions meant that I wasn't able to finish it straight away, and then when I heard that it was shown at BNAT, I thought some other reviews might appear, but since that hasn't happened yet, I thought I'd finally get mine up here to get the ball rolling. Instead of doing my usual thing of rambling on and on about every aspect of a movie's plot, I've tried to keep this as brief and spoiler-free as possible, so it can be read before seeing the movie without ruining it (I hope!)



ZwartBoek (Black Book)


Zwartboek is a thriller set during the final year of World War II, a time when the Allied forces had been stopped from advancing south of the Dutch rivers, leaving the most built up areas of the country still under Nazi control. This understandably creates problems for the main character, an attractive young Jewish woman called Rachel Stein, played by Carice van Houten. Rachel is forced to deny her own identity and learn the art of deception. The scenario is shown to be both ridiculous and incredibly dangerous in the opening minutes of the movie – Rachel is shown hiding out in the countryside with a sympathetic Dutch family, being taught passages of the Bible and tested on her ability to say grace accurately by the mean-looking head of the household. Later, as she talks to her dashing sailor friend, she sees the farmhouse destroyed by bombers, although it is unclear whether the bombing is deliberately targeted. This kind of ambiguity is quite deliberate. Before seeing the movie, one of the only biographical facts I knew about Verhoeven was that when he was a child he saw his home destroyed by a bomb during the War, and later found out that it was an American bomb, dropped by accident.



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Shortly after, a mysterious stranger comes asking questions about her. She is given a shot at escaping to freedom, but this leads to her suffering a terrible tragedy and she finds herself in The Hague, and inducted into the Resistance movement led by a man named Kuipers, played by respected Dutch actor Derek de Lint. A chance encounter during a brilliantly tense encounter on a train leads Rachel to her life changing first assignment: charm her way into the life (and bed) of Ludwig Müntze, a local Nazi officer. By now she has bleached her hair – all of it – and is going by the name Ellis de Vries. This leads in to the real meat of the film, the second act, which sees Rachel/Ellis drawn into a mass of deceits and treacheries, all the while becoming so deeply involved with Müntze that she has to reconsider her feelings for him. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that the film surges along in a succession of twists, switches and betrayals, and the story is so meticulously plotted that the movie flies by in a way that can be quite exhilarating – it certainly doesn’t feel like 135 minutes pass while watching it. The film is bookended by two short scenes set several years after the war, which I don’t want to reveal too much about, but they served to heighten the movie’s bittersweet edge to a level which gives the whole story another very interesting level of subtext, IMO.



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There are some excellent supporting performances in the film, my favourite being Ronnie, the Dutch girl whom Rachel befriends during her time with the Nazis. Ronnie at first seems a pretty unsympathetic character, essentially a traitor who has jumped into bed with grotesque Nazi Günther Franken – but as the movie progresses, clear parallels are drawn between Ronnie and Rachel: both have learnt the importance of adapting to each problem as it comes along, and neither is afraid to use her feminine wiles (an early scene sees Rachel flashing her thighs at a group of marching Nazis as a distraction). Visually, the film is thrilling to watch. The look of the film is largely down to its Director of Photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub, who has collaborated with Roland Emmerich a few times in the past, most notably on Independence Day.

Many of the visual effects in the film are first-rate, with CGI incorporated in a way that doesn’t announce itself too loudly, and is sometimes used to superb effect, such as the recreation of Amsterdam’s Grand Centraal station. If I had any problem with Black Book, it would unfortunately be with one of the story’s most essential elements – the romance between Rachel and the Nazi Müntze. The atrocities committed by the Nazis against Rachel’s family and friends are so horrendous that it seems somewhat difficult to believe that she would allow her feelings to even waver –and we are only offered a very brief hint that Müntze has a tragic history of his own, something clearly designed to make the character more sympathetic, but is ultimately not quite enough. Luckily, it didn’t overly distract me from the overall arc of the story, the progression of which is otherwise extremely well executed.



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In the evening, Verhoeven gave a talk which I managed to get to see. He said the idea for the movie started out life as early as 1966, and was then expanded upon in 1978. In its original guise, the star of the movie was to be the young friend of Rachel's - the chap with the sailboat. He said he felt the script was one of the most compelling he’s ever been attached to, and spoke a lot about how attracted he was to the ambiguity of the project. This was, after all, an era he saw with his own eyes, although he admitted that this did not necessarily make it easier to create the film’s authentic “lookâ€
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Postby John-Locke on Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:21 pm

Smashing Review TITG, much better than anything I could have written about the film (and thats not just because I smoked some of KC's Cali weed joints moments before going back into BNAT to see the film at 2am).

One thing I would mention is that whilst watching the film I kept on forgetting I was watching a Verhoven movie, then *BLAM* some kind of extreme violent act would happen and I was taken back in my seat as Verhoven used the trademark squibs/dyepacks that he's so famous for using.

I actually think it was the best film shown at BNAT, I would also agree that it's the best film I've seen from Verhovens career (not seen anything made before Flesh and Blood though). I actually want to see this film in the cinema again, it's that brilliant.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:18 pm

Cheers JL - all things considered, I'd rather have seen it after the Cali too!


John-Locke wrote:One thing I would mention is that whilst watching the film I kept on forgetting I was watching a Verhoven movie, then *BLAM* some kind of extreme violent act would happen and I was taken back in my seat as Verhoven used the trademark squibs/dyepacks that he's so famous for using.


That is spot-on, I actually meant to write something to this effect too - I recall a scene where someone removes a bullet that made me think "yup, this is Paul V alright!" :grin:
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:08 pm

ThisIsTheGirl wrote: Rachel is shown hiding out in the countryside with a sympathetic Dutch family, being taught passages of the Bible and tested on her ability to say grace accurately by the mean-looking head of the household...This kind of ambiguity is quite deliberate.


the cross she makes out of the molasses(?) that she puts into her porridge summed up that ambiguity nicely. What took me aback was that she moved right on from the family's demise, but, as you mention, the movie's tight plotting explains this later on in the narrative.

ThisIsTheGirl wrote:By now she has bleached her hair – all of it


classy description of what's the standard Verhoeven kink.

ThisIsTheGirl wrote:If I had any problem with Black Book, it would unfortunately be with one of the story’s most essential elements – the romance between Rachel and the Nazi Müntze. The atrocities committed by the Nazis against Rachel’s family and friends are so horrendous that it seems somewhat difficult to believe that she would allow her feelings to even waver


see, that's what I really liked about the film. As you said, it was Nazis (and, importantly, several Dutch, don't forget their complicity), plural, faceless, unknown, Nazis. But when you put a face on someone, get to know them...I dunno, it worked for me. It comes down to whether or not one feels that every German is guilty, or that the gypsy/Dumbledore/jew murdering madness was only perpetrated by a minority, an admittedly powerful minority, but regardless, not representative of the German populace.

Amidst all the brutal and shocking violence, amidst all the usual Verhoeven sleaze, amidst all the horrors on display, the film still allows you to think on such matters, which, to me, was the real strength of the movie. Couple that with Stockholm Syndrome, the solace/peace she's finally able to find in his arms...I bought it, but I'm a sucker for Star(of David) crossed lovers.

And I love the fact that the one guy you want her to be with, the kickass, deadshot badass, is the unquestioned villain of the piece.


ThisIsTheGirl wrote: in terms of tight screenplay and technical mastery, and one thing is certain: the movie marks not just a return to form but a very exciting declaration of intent from the director.


except for the one obvious bit (our resident marksman who "never misses" misses at close range) and the way, way, WAY too over the top shit scene, the film was near perfection.

Great review, I'll second Locke and add I was waiting for you to put your thoughts up first, 'cuz your critical acumen and analysis so thoroughly trumps my own.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:29 pm

This film has really haunted me since BNAT. It was not one of those films where it looks exciting to work for the underground. It's one of those stories that would happen to *you* if you were a spy, where everything goes horribly wrong. It never let up.

I was skeptical of the love angle, but willing to buy it. She really had no one else and her mortal enemy ends up with a very sympathetic face. Plus he did realize she was Jewish and a possible spy and didn't betray her. That showed alot of his "good" qualities right there.

The one part of the film I found just ridiculous and annoying was where she was, shall we say, dying the carpet to match the curtains. She goes to that much work...but fails to touch up her roots so that it becomes moot. It was JUST one of Verhoven's old "hey, shocked yet?!" scenes that bug the hell out of me. I have no problem with nudity, but he strikes me as almost childish in his use of it.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:33 am

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:
ThisIsTheGirl wrote:If I had any problem with Black Book, it would unfortunately be with one of the story’s most essential elements – the romance between Rachel and the Nazi Müntze. The atrocities committed by the Nazis against Rachel’s family and friends are so horrendous that it seems somewhat difficult to believe that she would allow her feelings to even waver


see, that's what I really liked about the film. As you said, it was Nazis (and, importantly, several Dutch, don't forget their complicity), plural, faceless, unknown, Nazis. But when you put a face on someone, get to know them...I dunno, it worked for me. It comes down to whether or not one feels that every German is guilty, or that the gypsy/Dumbledore/jew murdering madness was only perpetrated by a minority, an admittedly powerful minority, but regardless, not representative of the German populace.

Amidst all the brutal and shocking violence, amidst all the usual Verhoeven sleaze, amidst all the horrors on display, the film still allows you to think on such matters, which, to me, was the real strength of the movie. Couple that with Stockholm Syndrome, the solace/peace she's finally able to find in his arms...I bought it, but I'm a sucker for Star(of David) crossed lovers.

And I love the fact that the one guy you want her to be with, the kickass, deadshot badass, is the unquestioned villain of the piece.


Absolutely - it wasn't a huge problem for me, but one of the points I was a little unsure about. "Star (of David) crossed lovers", eh? Genius - I am stealing that.

KCBC wrote:
ThisIsTheGirl wrote: in terms of tight screenplay and technical mastery, and one thing is certain: the movie marks not just a return to form but a very exciting declaration of intent from the director.


except for the one obvious bit (our resident marksman who "never misses" misses at close range) and the way, way, WAY too over the top shit scene, the film was near perfection.


Ah, how did I forget those things, especially the shit scene? I agree, it was a tad over the top - but another one of those moments when I was in no doubt that I was watching a Verhoeven movie!


Enjoyed reading your comments, KeepCool and Lady S!
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Postby Pacino86845 on Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:23 pm

Unless I'm missing something, this film didn't get a lot of attention outside of BNAT, it seems. I just watched it yesterday, and while I agree with the bulk of what people have said above, I really don't rate Black Book as highly as others seem to.

Yeah that's the short of it, and from me the film gets a 6/10 (Average-Decent).

Here's why, in a few more words:

I can certainly commend Verhoeven's WWII drama for its impeccable production values and fairly compelling plot, but that's about as far as I go with the praise.

Over all I found the film to be fairly uninspired in terms of characters/dialogue, and at some point very early on Chekhov's proverbial gun starts to go off a little too frequently. The gun here being the words spoken by Mr. Smaal to Rachel Stein, implying that she shouldn't be so trusting of others in "these times."

The film blows its wad way too early, and as the double-crosses start piling over one another, each time reminding us quite blatantly how treacherous war can be (but our heroine Rachel always gets that expression of surprise laced with some movie tears), I just started to lose interest in anything that was happening to the characters.

And on top of that, the characters were all thinly-drawn, even Rachel/Elise herself... many scenes appeared quite theatrical, and the biggest surprises for me were how predictable some of the double-crosses were.

It's a shame that finally Black Book stuck with tried and true conventions of war films, because obviously it could've been more. The recurring theme of Rachel's survival in extreme situations adds some spirit to the film, the whole thing structured like a thriller more than anything else.

It wasn't a bad film at all, but just too conventional for my tastes. Too uninteresting. Working too hard to retread worn ground. Trying to jam too much into its running length. And surprisingly for a Verhoeven film, there was a little too much sentimental mumbo jumbo injected... so formulaic, like no war film can do without it!

Bah, I say!

If you've been curious about it, Black Book is definitely worth a viewing, it's not a waste of time in any case. The production values, the story, and some of the acting are all to a certain level of quality that shouldn't disappoint.

To top it off Carice van Houten is t3h h0tn3ss!!!!

6/10
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