Everybody wants to work for the most successful Dutchman in the world
It seems to me the Dutch always have a tendency to put down their own accomplishments compared to those of other countries, except of course when it comes to playing soccer. Other than that, we usually don't much positive to say about the state of Dutch music, films and television (and don't ever mention non-animated films that are dubbed into Dutch). But when somebody from the Netherlands makes it big in the USA, suddenly that person is hailed a hero (I guess people still look up at the United States). This of course makes Paul Verhoeven our greatest national treasure. Never mind the fact that the movies he made before moving to America were all as controversial as they were successful, nor the fact that his career in Hollywood hit it's peak with Basic Instinct. Actually, the fact that he was the first person to have the guts to pick up his Razzie award (for Showgirls) made him even more beloved than he already was.
So when Paul the conquerer returned to little old Holland to film a Second World War drama he co-wrote with his old collaborator Gerard Soeteman, the entire country was awestruck in his presence. Every actor was willing to audition for him (no doubt hoping to become the next Rutger Hauer). No location was unwilling to grant permission for Verhoeven to film (time was turned backwards by art directors in large parts of The Hague and other towns). Giant sets were built in the German Brandenburg Studios, one sequence was shot in a real Israeli Kibbutz and yet the film almost didn't get made because of budget problems.
Naturally none of the behind the scenes hassles are highlighted in this making of documentary, which has the curious subtitle 'The Special' (sounds like a joke out of Spaceballs). Neither does this Special reveal a lot of plot elements from the film, since it's one of those typical Verhoeven thrillers where you can never be sure on which side every one's on. Indeed, there are some kindhearted Germans and quite a lot of nasty Dutchmen in here, hence the title 'Black book'. One thing that is consistent throughout is the constant praising of the great director, especially by actor and self professed 'Verhoeven expert' Thom Hoffman. For his part, Big Paul has nothing but kind words to say about leading lady Carice van Houten, who can do anything according to him. Of course he did make her go through quite a lot for this picture, but then he's got a reputation to live up to.
But all in all, our Paulie comes over as a very normal, albeit still slightly manic person (apparently he used to be even more wild on set). He constantly knows what he wants and is not afraid to go against the grain and shock people. One element that cannot be excluded in this documentary is the recreation of the liberation by the Canadian army. Just like in Paul's previous war epic "Soldaat van Oranje", this sequence also shows how the celebrating public took their revenge on women who where friendly with the Nazi's. One extra, Suzette van Boxtel, gets her 5 minutes of fame here as we see her before and after her hair is unceremoniously shaved off on screen.
7 out of 10
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