Black Book may be Paul Verhoeven’s most visceral film, and that’s saying something. After all, this is man who gave us the lurid violence of RoboCop (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997), the unapologetic sexuality of Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995), and frequently both together, especially in his early Dutch films like Turkish Delight (1973) and Spetters (1980).
But 2005’s Black Book, his first Dutch film since 1983’s The Fourth Man, topped what had gone before: there’s gory violence, torture, nudity, sex, and all manner of excess. And it’s made all the more uncomfortable and intriguing by being set in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.
Verhoeven had dealt with the War previously in his career, either directly in Soldier of Orange (1977) and All Things Pass (1981), or allegorically, as in Starship Troopers. Verhoeven’s childhood in occupied Holland informed his presentation of the latter’s future fascist society and it’s interesting to speculate that the broader audience’s tendency to take his anti-fascist satire at face value compelled him to make Black Book, a comparatively straight-forward resistance thriller.