In the local St George area, a group of film enthusiasts has got together to create a little community movie theatre called The Film Seen. Living, as I do, in a virtual desert island shire for arthouse movies, the idea of being able to catch up on arthouse films only 5 minutes from home seemed like a nice idea. So I joined up for three months, and this was the first film up (they do one a month).
I’ve got to tell you, when the words “A Film By Paul Verhoeven” came up, I was already pre-judging this film. You may not know his name, but you’ll have heard of the films that he’s made in Hollywood: Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Hollow Man, etc. As far as I’m concerned, the guy is the king of sleaze. Any excuse he can get to ramp up the sex and violence, and he will do so.
So how on earth is he going to do it any differently in a Dutch film about World War II? The answer – he’s not. This film is based on true events, and apparently the research undertaken to make the film was immense. Certainly, the look and feel of the film was amazing, with everything looking true to life. But then again, that happens in most costume dramas, nowadays. So let’s move on to the story.
The story is of Rachel Stein, a young Jewish woman who had to go into hiding from the Nazis. Due to a few particularly unfortunate circumstances, she falls in with the Dutch underground resistance, and goes to work for them. Soon she ends up – much to Verhoeven’s glee, I’m sure, as he was researching this story – going to work to spy on the Nazis. By sleeping with one of the top commanders. Cue lots of nudity.
Fortunately, there is a bit more to the story than this and, from this point on, the story turns into a fairly complex tale of intrigue and resistance fighting. The one thing to be said for Verhoeven is that due to his Hollywood years, there’s not a dull moment in his film. The movie becomes as tense and exciting as any Hollywood thriller that you’ve seen.
And the film does drive home the horror and the craziness of the war years and by the end of the film’s nearly two and a half hours, I was utterly drained by it all, as were most of the fairly elderly audience that were with me.
So look, as a version of one of the war’s interesting historical footnotes, I found it utterly compelling. But it appears that a soft-porn action director is still a soft-porn action director, regardless of what material he’s working with.
3 out of 5.