[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Black Book (Zwartboek)

Intrigue in the wartime Dutch Underground

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

January 15, 2008 -- This epic love story set against the backdrop of the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II is also a ripping good spy yarn with lots of plot twists and double-crosses. It comes unglued a bit at the end, but it is still a pretty good yarn, one of director Paul Verhoeven's ("Showgirls") better films in years, perhaps his best since “Robocop.” Most of the dialog is in Dutch, with some German and a tiny bit of English. The story starts with a lovely Jewish woman, Rachel (played by Carice van Houten) losing her hiding place in the Netherlands when the building is accidentally bombed. She contacts a member of the Dutch underground and arranges passage for herself and her family into Allied-held territory. But the passage is a trap. Sieland barely escapes, but her family is murdered and their belongings stolen by the Germans, who are working with a traitor in the Dutch Underground.

Forced to stay in the Netherlands, she ends up working as a spy for the Dutch underground, and she infiltrates the headquarters of local German command. In the process, she falls in love with a German commander who is sympathetic to the plight of the local people, Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch). As the end of the German occupation nears, the plight of the Dutch underground becomes increasingly dire. It becomes clear to those in the underground that there is a traitor in their midst who is betraying them to the Germans. Rachel herself becomes a suspect and the members of the underground deal harshly with traitors. She must prove her innocence in order to stay alive. War's end in the Netherlands will provide no safety for her. There seems to be no end to the list of enemies that Rachel is accumulating.

Like any Verhoeven movie, there is plenty of skin on display. Verhoeven does like to give his viewers some female nudity wherever possible. It is all part of the service. There isn't a whole lot of depth to the characters in the movie, except for Rachel and Müntze. All the other characters in the movie are thin. Most movies, outside those revolving around Ann Franck, don't deal much with the Dutch resistance or the Dutch occupation, for that matter, so this film represents a look at a different side of World War II. Rachel's plight becomes more desperate during the chaos at the end of the occupation. Deadly scores are being settled and that mysterious German collaborator is trying to eliminate anyone who can pose a threat to him. There are a lot of plot twists at the end of the film, maybe too many, but it will keep you guessing. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)