Black Book (Zwartboek) DVD Review
by Kam Williams
DVD Depicting Holocaust Saga as Erotic Espionage Thriller Arrives on DVD
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) was a famous singer in Europe. But because she also was Jewish, she became totally dependent on the kindness of strangers during the Holocaust, and had to take refuge in a safe house in Amsterdam.
Then, although only weeks away from liberation by the approaching Allied forces, she was forced to flee when her hiding place was destroyed by a bomb from above during an airplane dogfight. And she was the only one of her family to survive a subsequent attempt to escape, when the boat they hired to ferry them out of the country was ambushed by Nazi soldiers.
Rather than run, Rachel chose to join the Resistance movement with hope of avenging the ruthless murder of her parents. However, the embittered beauty soon found herself making an unthinkable compromise just to save herself. For, when her first mission for the Dutch Underground went horribly wrong, her only means of avoiding discovery was to charm the pants off the local Gestapo leader (Sebastian Koch), literally and figuratively.
Then, the plot thickens when he offers her employment as his assistant in order to embark on a full-blown affair, and she finds herself actually falling for him as well. So, the pressing question becomes, "Exactly where do the obviously-conflicted young lady's loyalties lie?" And this query supplies the raison d'etre of Black Book, a labor of love from Holland's Paul Verhoeven.
From Basic Instinct, we already know that the daring director is not above having a leading lady flash some skin, and here we have another femme fatale flashing away with the best of them. Reportedly based on actual characters and events conflated as a concession to cinema, this is ostensibly the first Holocaust flick to reinterpret a survivor's story as an erotic espionage thriller.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, nudity, sexuality, and graphic violence.
In Dutch, German, Hebrew and English with subtitles.
Running time: 146 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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