Black Book

Rated R 2007

Paul Verhoeven can be a very bad boy and a very good filmmaker. Any of his movies could have been titled Basic Instinct -- not least his epic World War II thriller Black Book. The movie opens in 1956 with a busload of Holy Land tourists gawking at "what is called a kibbutz." There, a Dutch woman recognizes our attractive protagonist Rachel (Carice van Houten): "You're Jewish?!" The two exchange awkward pleasantries, the tour bus pulls out, and with indescribable sadness, Rachel sits alone to relive the movie we now watch. A dozen years earlier, she was hiding with a Dutch farm family -- forced to recite from the New Testament for her dinner. When a German bomber sheds its payload on the farmhouse, Rachel is on her own. Enlisting with the underground, she meets and vamps a handsome Gestapo officer (Sebastian Koch). But shit floats on the Day of Reckoning, and Rachel nearly drowns in it, stuck in a Dutch detention camp staffed by drunks. "I never thought I'd dread liberation," she says. That's the movie's melancholy moral. Repeatedly buried and resurrected, Rachel's a survivor. But as the final shot makes clear, resettlement in Israel hardly marks the end of her travail. She's another one of Verhoeven's non-Christian Christs.

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Black Book

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