Black Book portrays the brutality of human nature after the war


The agony of knowing what rests ahead, the fear that the wrong step is not so far away and neither is perdition. Black Book takes place in 1956 during the end of World War II and it brings to life the tragic and almost Shakespearean situation of a Dutch Jewish girl Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten). It all commences when Rachel receives a visit from an old friend and thus after her departure she retreats to a lake near by where she remembers a time when warfare shattered her and almost took life away from her. It is now 1944 and Rachel Steinn is a young singer whose life has been altered significantly and all she has left of the life she once had is the weary sound of the jazz records she once recorded. She is seen reciting a passage from the bible in the home of the family that is hiding her from the oppression of the Nazi regime. Everyday she must recite a different passage in order to receive a small meal. The turmoil all begins when her safe house is bombed and she is forced to run for survival as the Nazi soldiers will soon be arriving there to look for her. Paul Verhoeven eloquently encapsulates the bitter taste of war, a taste whose memory still manages to remain after it is gone. It is all there the romanticism of the time the, the elegant outfits and the music that once echoed through the walls of the Nazi camps.
In a journey to survival Rachel Steinn is forced to change her appearance. Her hair is dyed blonde and she becomes Ellis De Vries, all to make friends with the enemy. The first step is becoming Ludwig Müntze’s (Sebastian Koch) lover, from a previous encounter she gains knowledge that he is a stamp collector and thus she uses the excuse of bringing him several stamps from the Queen Wilhelmina collection of to seduce him.
Once she is inside she carefully places a microphone behind a portrait in one of the offices, this microphone ironically becomes her ruin rather than her salvation for it is not long before her plans are know by one of the SS officers. The members of the Resistance will soon see her as a traitor and she will begin to dread the day the war comes to an end, for it will only be the beginning of the worst. Now both Ludwig Müntze and Ellis De Vries must run away for they are both traitors in the eyes of those they once vowed to follow.
The brutality of human nature is seen in the after war events that take place as Nazi whores are publicly humiliated and paraded around like trophies of a victory that seems almost invisible. The cinematography of the movie is something to talk about, everything radiates genuineness. Black Book is somewhat reminiscent to Schindler’s list in the sense that there is a list although both with different reasons for their existence. Paul Verhoeven does a great job in directing the film as he successfully renders believable situations for however extreme they might be. Ellis De Vries’s character becomes a tangible representation of the way war makes morality fade away. “Trust no one” says one of the characters in the beginning of the Black Book; these are perhaps the words that foreshadow the film’s persistent theme of betrayal. There is the “betrayal of self” as seen when Ellis De Vries/ Rachel Steinn hands over her heart to Ludwig Müntze and SS officer; the enemy who she was suppose to use and destroy. This is a great war thriller with twists that make you empathize with the heroine who by some means manages to survive the situations that almost tear her down.

5 Stars
Weak: 1 Star        Average: 2 Stars        Good: 3 Stars        Very Good: 4 Stars        Excellent:  5 Stars


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