Category Archives: Netherlands film

Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)

Black Book is a film of convenience; whether it’s a negative to further the plot or a simple positive like there being a nonsensical chute to allow easy entry into a basement, the film keeps oiling its gears. It’s not predictable—in fact, it hinges on being unpredictable (Black Book owes a lot to the heist genre)—but it is smooth. It’s so smooth, it doesn’t feel much like a Paul Verhoeven film. But maybe that lack of identity was his point. He wanted to show he was capable of being a journeyman.

Part of that journeyman approach is shooting the film in Panavision, but framing his shots for TV. Black Book would have played great as a three or four part television mini-series. While the film eventually turns into a conspiracy thriller (one or two questions go unanswered), some back story on the non-suspect characters would have been great.

Verhoeven has bookends, making Book another member of this odd new Holocaust genre. He sets up the film as an object of great importance and it isn’t. It’s a mildly boring, competent World War II thriller with some decent surprises and great performances. The surprises aren’t just narrative twists; Verhoeven makes some great observations about the winners of wars being no better than the losers.

Carice van Houten is a good lead, not great. Sebastian Koch is excellent as her lover; costars Thom Hoffman and Derek de Lint have their moments too.

It’s okay, just way too long.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Verhoeven; screenplay by Gerard Soeteman and Verhoeven, based on a story by Soeteman; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by Job ter Burg and James Herbert; music by Anne Dudley; production designer, Wilbert Van Dorp; produced by Jeroen Beker, Teun Hilte, San Fu Maltha, Jens Meurer, Jos van der Linden and Frans van Gestel; released by A-Film Distribution.

Starring Carice van Houten (Rachel Stein), Sebastian Koch (Ludwig Müntze), Thom Hoffman (Hans Akkermans), Halina Reijn (Ronnie), Waldemar Kobus (Günther Franken) and Derek de Lint (Gerben Kuipers).


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Minoes (2001, Vincent Bal), the English dubbed version

After we finished watching Minoes, my fiancée turned and asked me if it was a children’s film or if the Dutch just made weird films. While it appears to be assigned to the children’s film genre in festivals, the film won best picture and best actress at the Netherlands Film Festival. Still, I wouldn’t just say it isn’t an odd film. I think it’s my first Dutch film, actually.

While Minoes is good, I did watch it dubbed, so it’s possible I got something or lost something or neither. Again, it’s intended for young audience–lot of mild swearing, actually… those naughty Canadian dubbers–and maybe that level of storytelling depth made dubbing less offensive. Minoes is an enjoyable experience, though probably not for people who don’t like cats (it’s a cat who turns into a young woman). The film doesn’t ask any questions about the transformation, sticking to expected child-level of acceptance. Since the questions are never raised, there’s no expectation of an answer, which might only be nice at the end, but Minoes establishes early there won’t be any questions… It establishes its setting, its conflicts, then sticks with them.

The director, Bal, has a great sense of composition and the film’s rooftop sets are wonderful–both functional and imaginative, while never unrealistic. I’m not sure how the special effects were done, if there were any (the cats mouths appeared to be moving to words, but since it was dubbed, I don’t know for sure), but they were excellent as well. The talking cats fell immediately into the film’s agreement with itself and the audience so there was never an issue. None of the special effects looked CG (but well could have been) and there was no gee whiz factor to the film. All the cats just happened to talk in Minoes.

Since I did see it dubbed, I can’t really can’t say anything about the acting, though the lead, Carice van Houten, seems like she did a good job….

The film seems to agree with Mel Stuart's excellent observation: make a movie for adults and kids will be smart enough to figure it out.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Vincent Bal; screenplay by Bal, Burny Bos and Tamara Bos, based on the novel by Annie M.G. Schmidt; director of photography, Walther van den Ende; edited by Peter Alderliesten; music by Peter Vermeersch; production designer, Vincent de Pater; produced by Burny Bos; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Carice van Houten (Minoes), Theo Maassen (Tibbe), Sarah Bannier (Bibi), Hans Kesting (Harrie de Haringman), Olga Zuiderhoek (Mevrouw van Dam), Jack Wouterse (Burgermeester van Weezel) and Pierre Bokma (Meneer Ellemeet).