Monday, January 08, 2007

Black Book Review

Thankfully, this is another BNAT film that I saw completely cold. When Paul Verhoven’s name flashed across the screen, I groaned and whined “I hate Paul Verhoven.” Hollow Man still ranks as one of the most awful experiences I’ve ever had in a theatre, it’s as if the director was behind me yelling “Are you offended YET? How about if I kill a dog?!” I had no idea what Black Book was about, but I expected plenty of breasts, blood and outrageousness.

Well, there’s breasts and blood (it wouldn’t be Verhoven if he didn’t insist on giving you full-on nudity, would it?), but this is an incredibly restrained film. It is a thriller about a Dutch Jew caught up in the Dutch Resistance. Even though you meet a postwar Rachel Ellis at the beginning of the film, you constantly doubt whether or not she will survive. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot because you would hate me for it. The twists and turns of this movie do not let up and there is not one slow moment. There are some moments of true horror in this movie. Much of what happens to Ellis is straight out of a nightmare. This is not the sort of spy/resistance movie where you wish you could work in the underground, this is the kind of story where everything goes wrong and you’re very glad to be in a 21st century movie theatre.

Perhaps the most refreshing part of this movie is that it isn’t your typical WWII film. They tend to follow a very typical pattern, particularly if they have an eye out for the awards. Once and awhile you will get an Enigma or Charlotte Gray which will tap a more forgotten story of the war. Black Book joins that club. I would love to see more directors tackle WWII films like these, rather than making yet another Stephen Ambrose adaptation. There were many heroes of WWII and they didn’t all wear uniforms.

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