Saturday, October 20, 2007

Black Book

(movie review)

I rented this movie on a whim, without knowing it was a foreign film. Turns out it's a Dutch movie filmed in Dutch, German, Hebrew and (some) English. Which meant I ended up watching most of it in the Japanese Dub, because that was easier for me to understand than the Dutch and German, and the DVD over here didn't come with English subtitles. I had to watch it a couple times to get everything, but I feel like I got most of it all right in the end.

But I won't bore you with my linguistic problems. Onto the film itself...

This film, boasting the opening words "inspired by true events" is a story of the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis. The story of the Dutch Resistance is a story that doesn't get told often in Hollywood, although heaven knows there has never been a lack of movies about resisting the Nazis in one shape or another.

I like a good "fighting against the Nazis" movie as much as anyone else (in fact I've reviewed a couple of them favorably on this blog) although I do sometimes worry that sometimes the film industry is exploiting the subject matter and just using it as a background against which to tell tales of good versus evil.

I once had a Calvin history professor who said, "You've been taught to view World War II as a conflict of good versus evil. I want to challenge you to view it as a conflict between great evil on both sides." He wasn't talking about the Dutch Resistance when he made that comment, but nonetheless this film is a good example of a story that resists the temptation to retell World War II as good versus evil. There are some good Nazis in this film, and there are some bad members of the Dutch Resistance, and by the end of the film nobody is left with their hands completely clean. I found it a very interesting take.

Despite the words "inspired by true events" much of the incredible twists and turns of the plot of this movie make me believe it must have been loosely inspired by true events. It is however a good spy suspense story. It does a good job of keeping the tension all the way through, and there are a few surprises along the way.

The one thing that I found really incredulous in the movie was after the war was over the Nazis still had the power, according to the terms of the peace treaty, to punish their own men. So someone who had aided the Resistance was ordered executed. Did this kind of thing really happen even after the Nazis had lost the war?

The film is directed by Paul Verhoeven, a Dutch film maker who's had a long career in Hollywood. I started recognizing his name about this time last year when I re-watched "Starship Troopers" and listened to his DVD commentary. The first time I watched "Starship Troopers" it left me scratching my head, but once I learned it was a satire I enjoyed it a lot more, and I thought Verhoeven had some good points on the commentary when he talked about the nature of fascism and militarism. Also in the same DVD commentary Verhoeven talked about some of his boyhood memories of the War. There was no DVD commentary on this movie (at least not on the version I watched) but it is clear these things are all still on Verhoeven's mind.

Link of the Day
More Noam Chomsky videos: Chomsky on the Charlie Rose show (slightly dated now, but still worth watching). A longer video, but good to have on in the background when you're doing something else.

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