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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Black Book, The (contains spoilers)

Excellent film. Without any sentimentality this film depicts the crushing brutality of life in the occupied Netherlands late in the Second World War. The plot involves a conspiricy between a pair of Dutch men and a German officer to target the wealthiest Jewish people still living (underground) in the Netherlands. The Dutch men convince the Jews that for a price they will transport them to liberated Belgium. The Jews, carrying all their valuables, (cash, gold and jewelry) are led onto a barge that is supposed to ferry them to safety across the border. But there is a German partol boat waiting downstream for them and they are slaughtered on the deck of the barge. The Germans loot the bodies but our heroine escapes by diving into the canal.

The director does so many things right. The pace is perfect and someone did a great job at editing. Violent events pile up against one another as a terrible momentum builds. There is only a handful of moments when any of the characters has time to reflect on their situation before some new, unanticipated disaster crashes in.

This film has a twisty, complex, yet readily followed plot. It shows how compicated occupying a foreign nation is. It shows how easily the most committed, dedicated partisan could be framed as a traitor. You would expect life in the resistance to be dangerous, but you would not expect this kind of treachery from your own comrades. If you were a resistance fighter you would never expect to find a loyal ally in the German army yet I'm sure these events transpired in a fashion similar to this dramatization. You never feel the filmakers have embelished.

I give this pic nine solid gold stars. This story could not have been told this well by anyone in Hollywood.

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