World Cinema

Black Book/ Zwartboek directed by Paul Verhoeven

1774342580 The movie works great because it is densely populated by people whose characters are never in black and white, always in grey. This is something that makes the movie and the characters so believable. Because you understand that in an extraordinary situation such as war all that matters is survival. Its just your luck how you end up – least of all whether you end up on the winning side or the losing side.

Its a world war II movie and its about many things. It’s about atrocities, love, betrayals, partisans and a whodunit. And yes, its about survival, by any means necessary. What is refreshing about the movie is that it paints both sides with the same brush. Sometimes you forget that the allies have been ingrained in our psyches as the ‘good guys’ and the Germans as the incorrigible ‘baddies’. You find the same characteristics on both sides and as one of the end scenes showed (in a particularly disgusting and for the same reason intensely powerful scene), the sadism generally attributed to Nazis flows equally well in the veins of the historical victors.

The story revolves around Rachel Stein, a Jew in hiding in Netherlands, who witnesses the betrayal and killing of her parents and brother during an escape attempt. She then joins a resistance group and is given the task of infiltrating the SD (Sicherheitsdienst – a part of the SS) by seducing the SD commander Ludwig Müntze. But things soon go awry, from a tactical point of view as well as from an emotional point of view. It is here that the movie is masterful. The shift in perception is subtle but visible. The grey shade of the character in everyone becomes evident – for better or for worse. The script never lets you perform easy categorization. And this becomes stronger and stronger as we near the end.

The best part of the movie, according to me, is the very end scene. AsBlack Book 3 the camera pans out to the sky, you see men, this time, Israeli colonists taking aim behind barricades to confront what we can assume are displaced Palestinians. It’s a delicious irony shown brilliantly – how easily the oppressed become oppressors. As Rachel says as she breaks down near the end of the movie – “Will it never stop, then!”, the movie subtly lets you know how it never stops.

A richly complex movie that says a lot of things that may not be apparent by a casual view. Its emotionally complex plot is a welcome one – a sign that we re successfully moving away from the “Rambo” image of World War II



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