4 September 2018

101 FILMS PRESENTS: PAUL VERHOEVEN'S 'BLACK BOOK.' (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




BLACK BOOK. (ZWARTBOEK) (2006) DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY PAUL 'BASIC INSTINCT' VERHOEVEN. STARRING CARICE VAN HOUTEN, SEBASTIAN KOCH, THOM HOFFMAN, HALINA REIJN, CHRISTIAN BERKEL, MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS AND WALDEMAR KOBUS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Tour Guide over the bus PA system: 'After lunch, we'll be visiting the place where Jesus performed his first healing miracle.'

'One day you're singing, the next day you're silenced.'

'Don't forget to light up the Fuhrer.'

'When will it end?'

This Dutch/German/English-language World War Two film is a big hit with me, although I'm starting to wonder if there really is only one Dutch actress in the whole world and that actress is Carice Van Houten. She's in bloody everything, lol.

She's in GAME OF THRONES, still the hottest TV show on the planet, and I saw her recently in a film called RACE (2013) as well, the story of black runner Jesse Owens taking a phenomenal four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

In RACE, she plays Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's pet director who filmed the Olympics and released the resulting movie under the name OLYMPIA. She also made a Nazi propaganda film called TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, in which she really captures the Nazi love of lavish, almost mystical spectacle as evidenced at the Nuremberg Rallies of 1933.

Anyway, in BLACK BOOK, Carice Van Houten plays a sparky, feisty, sexy sassy Dutch-Jewish singer called Rachel Stein. It's 1944 and the Nazis have occupied the Netherlands, as indeed they've occupied most places around them by now.

Holland, in fact, was where famous young diarist Anne Frank and her family hid in an attic for two years before being eventually found out by the Nazis and dragged off to different concentration camps. Rachel is in hiding too, in a farmhouse in the countryside. When it's bombed and the family living there is killed, Rachel has to move on.

An horrific tragedy occurs when Rachel tries to escape to Allied territory by boat with her family, her beloved parents and brother. (Her gentle, bespectacled Dad actually greatly resembles Otto Frank, Anne's father!) Rachel sees her family killed in front of her eyes by a forewarned Nazi patrol. Rachel is the only survivor.

An angry, hate-filled Rachel, fuelled by her desire for revenge against the men who killed her family, decides that there will be no more hiding or cowering in attics for her. She changes her name to Ellis de Vries and begins to work for the Dutch Resistance. Part of her job is to seduce a handsome senior Nazi officer, SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Ludwig Muntze. This is where the already compelling film gets really interesting.

Ellis dyes her hair blonde to disguise her Jewish heritage, and she even dyes her pubes to match, because she's apparently a 'perfectionist.' Yes, we see that bit, lol. It's funny. Muntze is a big burly devastatingly handsome mature man who is captivated by Ellis. She cleverly uses his love of stamp-collecting as well as her feminine wiles to get right under his skin and into his head.

They have sex and it becomes obvious that Muntze knows that Ellis is Jewish and trying to hide it but he doesn't care. How likely to happen was this, I wonder. A high-ranking Nazi officer having an affair with a Jewish woman in almost full view of his colleagues, in a country where everyone at that time was spying on everyone else, often for their own material gain?

Well, Muntze's wife and two children were killed by an Allied bomb so maybe he's lonely. (He's actually legitimately single now too, which is good news for Ellis.) Or maybe he's the one Nazi officer who didn't go along with Hitler's Final Solution. There might have been one, mightn't there?

By this time, late in 1944, it was becoming obvious to the Germans that they'd lost the war. Some of the major concentration camps, like Auschwitz, were wrapping up their Jew-killing programmes and attempting feebly to hide the evidence that such programmes had ever taken place there.

They blew up their crematoria and sent such prisoners as could walk on the infamous 'death marches' to other camps, maybe to ones inside the Reich itself. Other camps stepped up
their killing programmes at this time, like Ravensbruck, which I'm reading about at the moment in Sarah Helm's 'IF THIS IS A WOMAN: INSIDE RAVENSBRUCK: HITLER'S CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR WOMEN.' Great writing but a chilling and deeply saddening subject.

Clearly old Hitler knew by now that he was going down, as it were, and he wanted to take as many of his hated 'enemies' down with him as he could. It was still a very, very dangerous time to be a Jew in Nazi Germany or in any of the many countries occupied by Germany.

Some of Ellis's Resistance friends have been arrested by now and hauled away by the Gestapo for 'questioning,' which we know means being locked in the underground cells in the Gestapo building and taken out intermittently to be verbally abused and physically tortured.

There are some graphic scenes of such torture in the film, or at least the aftermath. There are also scenes of what happened to some Nazi collaborators after the war ended. The scene with the shower-of-shit in it is harrowing indeed, and ditto the scene where a woman is getting her head shaved in public because she was a so-called 'Nazi whore.' These were turbulent times indeed. Some non-Nazis may have also done some things at this time that they might have been ashamed of when they looked back on them.

The sex-and-champagne Nazi parties-slash-orgies where everyone sings drunkenly and women flash their tits are great fun to look at. They do seem to accurately represent some of the decadent times we've heard that the Nazis had while they were in power.

The evil gluttonous Franken, Muntze's deputy with the very small penis (yeah, we see it!), is a thick-lipped, corrupt and self-serving character with always an eye to the main chance. Ellis had better not cross him. He seems to have his beady little lecherous eye on her but she's Muntze's girl. For now...

There also seems to be a terrible scam afoot involving rich Jews like Rachel's/Ellis's parents, whereby such Jews pay someone through the nose for safe passage out of Holland to Allied territory. Their money is taken, their names are duly noted down in the little titular 'black book,' and the Jews then prepare to sail blithely off towards their safe new lives outside of Germany.

What happens next hardly bears thinking about. The owner of the little 'black book' tips off the Nazis, who swoop in and massacre the exiting Jews, who are fleeing with as much of their important portable property as they can carry. Furs, jewels, watches, clocks, books, fountain pens, even paintings, they're bringin' 'em. The Nazis then steal this handy portable property for themselves.

This is where there might be trouble for the Nazi thieves, though. It's not a crime at all to kill a Jew, or even, apparently, six million Jews if you've a mind to. What is a crime is keeping the spoils of such killings for yourself, when every Nazi soldier knows that such property must go to the Reich, all of it. Soldiers are not allowed to keep stuff back for personal gain or their personal use. That's an offence punishable sometimes by execution in certain cases.

Whoever's running this scam has got to get his- or her- comeuppance in the film, and not just from the Resistance either, but from their own precious Reich, which has made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions that all property confiscated from the Jews must be 'returned' to the Reich. As if the Reich had a God-given right to take even the gold fillings of the Jews they killed.

It looks to Ellis as if there's no-one she can really trust. Her Resistance chums are the ones who wanted her to 'screw' the handsome Muntze in the first place (and 'screw' him she did, royally with knobs on, lol), but now these same chums all seem to think that she's betrayed them and gone over to the Nazi side.

Is this true, or is Ellis as much a victim of Nazi tyranny as some of her Resistance friends, currently being horribly tortured in the grim cellars of the Gestapo building? And maybe there's someone in the Resistance whom she used to consider her friend but who no longer has her best interests at heart, maybe? A good square of chocolate ought to fix that. Always works for me, anyway!

I realise that you won't get that last bit unless you've seen the movie. Never mind. It's a smashing war film with Nazis, fleeing Jews, scruffy-looking but wholly committed and intense Resistance men and women and plenty of nice tits.

Well, about two pairs of tits really, let's say, and most of these are Carice Van Houten's perky little gems. What, you've seen her tits before, is it? Well, you know what, mate? Never look a pair of gift boobies in the mouth. It's the height of bad luck.

Available on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD in August 2018 from 101 FILMS BLACK LABEL!

Starring: Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones), Sebastian Koch (Bridge of Spies), Thom Hoffman (Dogville) and Halina Reijn (Valkyrie).

101 Films presents Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (2006), title 004 on our Black Label. The first 3,000 copies of each title will come complete with a slipcase, and Limited Edition booklet. 
Extras include new interviews with the director and cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub.

From internationally acclaimed director Paul Verhoeven (Soldier of Orange, Elle), Black Book (Zwartboek) is an epic and moving wartime tale, in which the distinctions between good and evil become blurred by human nature. Starring Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch, the film chronicles one woman’s fight for survival and revenge as the Second World War enters its final, bloody months.

Brand New Extras:

• The Book of Verhoeven: Paul Verhoeven on Black Book
• Diary of a Cinematographer: Karl Walter Lindenlaub on Black Book
• Limited Edition Booklet: Includes Return to the Homefront: Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book by Shelagh Rowan-Legg, and Black Book and Robocops: Scoring the Films of Paul Verhoeven by Charlie Brigden

Additional Extras:

• Interview with Carice van Houten (2006)
• Interview with Paul Verhoeven (2006)
• Original theatrical trailer

About 101 Films:

101 Films is one of the UK’s most successful independent film distributors, releasing new and catalogue films of every genre on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD and TV. In addition to new cast-led titles starring, amongst others, Frank Grillo, Eve Hewson and Jemaine Clement, 101 Films recently announced their new ‘Black Label’ premium catalogue range; cult and classic films with brand new extras.

101 Films Black Label:

101 Films is committed to seeking out cult and catalogue films and giving them the best releases possible. With their Black Label, 101 Films is curating a numbered series of dual format limited editions, complete with original artwork and newly-commissioned extras. The Black Label is dedicated to fully doing justice to the very best cult and classic films from some of cinema’s most renowned directors, and unearthing hidden gems in luxury packages for the first time. The first 3,000 copies of each title will come complete with a slipcase, and include a booklet featuring newly written material.



AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








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