A welcome return to his native land

Paul Verhoeven, whose career began in the Netherlands with such highly praised films as the Fourth Man and Soldier of Orange has gone home with distinction to direct The Black Book in which he returns to the Nazi occupation /resistance theme that gave us Soldier.

After years in Hollywood directing such sci-fi epics as RoboCop, Starship Troopers and Total Recall followed by the notorious Basic Instinct and the flop Showgirls, Verhoeven has made a filmed-where-it-happened story of resistance, betrayal and shifting loyalties that carries conviction and offers some fine performances.

The Black Book

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Any attempt at plot description would be a spoiler so I must leave it at this: The Black Book is the story of a young Jewish cabaret singer who on the run from the Nazi occupiers in what will be the last year of war, finds herself drawn into the resistance movement. As Rachel Stein, Carice van Houten is superb in a many-layered performance that demands she mixes with collaborationists and Nazi officials. Her loyalty is questioned by her fellow resistance fighters as is that of the Nazi occupiers’ suspicion of an SS major left without wife and children after a devastating Allied air raid; he is played with sensitivity by Sebastian Koch.

Suspenseful, surprising and for all its length — 150 minutes–absorbing throughout, the film draws its strengths as much from the authentic locations as the fine acting and fast paced editing.

Its success at the North American box office may be hampered by its being in Dutch with English subtitles. Harrowing but inspiring, The Black Book said to be based on “true incidents” is a cinch to be shortlisted for the foreign language Oscar in 2007

It is also good to known that Verhoeven has another Dutch production underway.

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