The Bluntness Of Black Book

I’m a “Paul Verhoeven”: fan. Here’s a director who tends to cram a lot of stuff into his movies (too much, some would argue), as well as some strong messages, with a particular brand of bluntness that at the same time pisses people off and turns him into something of a rebel hero.

Not only that, but he also manages to somehow turn his films into cultural events that, at least in The Netherlands, most people feel they can’t possibly miss. I finally saw his new movie — ‘Zwartboek’ (‘Black Book’), Verhoeven’s first Dutch production in decades — on Monday, weeks after the release, and still, the theater was packed.

Still, I feel that, as a director, Verhoeven is starting to show his age. To name one example, there’s far too much ‘handholding’ (as Steven Johnson “calls it”: in ‘Zwartboek’. After a major plot point is revealed, Verhoeven almost always has the main character repeat the plot point. This might be one of the things that make his films accessible for such a broad audience, but for me, it abruptly cuts off my “suspension of disbelief”:

Despite nitpicks like this, I can’t help but love the bluntness with which Verhoeven conveys his main message in ‘Zwartboek’.

(There might be some spoilers ahead, so be cautious.)

First, the Germans show their cruelty, ruthlessly and senselessly killing Jewish people. Then, after the war ends, the Dutch do pretty much the same, punishing people who sided with the Germans in shamelessly medieval ways. And finally, when the stolen money (that this movie centers on) is retrieved, the Jews use it… to fight their own war, in Israel.

Point well made, Paul.