Black Book


Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Black Book (Zwartboek) begins at the Stein Kibbutz in Israel, where a Dutch tourist encounters Rachel (played by Carice van Houten), a teacher, whom she had not seen for 12 years. The scene then reverts to 1944. Rachel and several Jews are to escape from the Nazi occupation of Holland by boat, having loaded themselves up with money, courtesy of Mr. Smaal (Dolf De Vries), a lawyer, and as arranged by Dutch police officer Van Gein (played by Peter Blok). But SS troops under the command of Günther Franke (played by Waldemar Kobus) open fire on the boat, killing all on board except for Rachel, who jumps into the water and observes as Franke loots the dead bodies of money and valuables. Clearly, someone was the fink, but now Rachel must survive, so Smaal arranges to have her join the Dutch underground as Ellis De Vries. In one escapade, she meets SS officer Ludwig Müntze (played by Sebastian Koch), who fascinates her with his stamp collection, and she soon inveigles her way into his bedroom and plants a bug in his office. Expecting that Nazi rule is ending, Müntze has been negotiating a ceasefire with Smaal on behalf of the resistance to avoid further bloodshed. Meanwhile, several members of the resistance have an auto accident, exposing arms that they are smuggling, so they are arrested, tortured as terrorists, and are under a death sentence. Realizing that Ellis is a Jew, Müntze demands to know all. After she reveals that Franke has been hiding the loot from the dead Jews, Müntze accuses Franke, but the latter’s safe contains no loot. Franke then has Müntze arrested for the crime of negotiating with the resistance. The resistance group tries to execute an escape of its comrades, but the plot is foiled. The informer’s identity is still unknown. Meanwhile, Müntze escapes, and the plot thickens further. Then comes liberation day. A savage Dutch mob captures women who had sex with the Nazis, and Ellis is humiliated until rescued by Canadian soldiers and Dr. Akkermans (played by Thom Hoffman), a resistance leader who later tries to settle a score with her for loving Müntze. The mob also apprehends Müntze, who soon appears before a Canadian officer.  However, Nazi General Käutner (played by Christian Berkel) demands the right to execute him, since a death sentence had been authorized, and one of the terms of German surrender is to permit the German military to discipline its own men. The fink is finally revealed as a resistance leader. Rachel is able to recover the loot, which is used to start the Stein Kibbutz. For portrayal of the mob alone, the Political Film Society has nominated Black Book as best film exposé of 2007.  MH



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