Zwartboek (Black Book) (2006) 

 

 

 

Director:     Paul Verhoeven. 

Cast:    Carice van Houten (Rachel / Ellis), Sebastian Koch (Ludwig Mntze), Thom Hoffman (Hans Akkermans), Halina Reijn (Ronnie), Waldemar Kobus (Gnther Franken), Derek de Lint (Gerben Kuipers), Christian Berkel (General Kutner), Dolf de Vries (Notary Smaal), Peter Blok (Van Gein), Michiel Huisman (Rob), Ronald Armbrust (Tim Kuipers), Frank Lammers (Kees), Matthias Schoenaerts (Joop), Johnny de Mol (Theo), Xander Straat (Maarten).

young Dutch Jewish woman works with the Dutch resistance against the German occupation

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Israel, October 1956.  Dutch woman Ronnie and her Canadian husband take the Holy Lands Tour and stop at a kibbutz.  Ronnie takes some pictures around the kibbutz.  She even takes a picture of a kibbutz woman teacher in her classroom.  The teacher reproaches Ronnie for taking the picture, but Ronnie recognizes her and asks her if she isn't Ellis de Vries from the Hague.  Ellis finally recognizes Ronnie and they talk together.  She tells Ronnie that her new married name is Rachel Rosenthal.  After Ronnie leaves, Rachel sits by a lake, remembers her past and cries. 

Back to the past.  September 1944, Holland.  The Jewish Rachel is hiding from the Germans with Mr. and Mrs. Tjepkema.  She has to learn Bible passages about Jesus in order to get food at the family table.  Mr. Tjepkema tells her:  "If the Jews had listened to Jesus Christ, they wouldn't be in the mess they are in now."

A fellow named Rob sees the pretty Rachel laying on the lake dock.  He stops and talks with her.  They see an Allied plane trying to get away from a German fighter plane.  The plane starts dropping its bombs so it can climb faster.  One of the bombs almost kills Rob and Rachel.  Another is a direct hit on the farm house where Rachel was hiding.  Rob quickly takes her away in his sail boat in order to avoid the Germans who arrive to put out the fire. 

With Rob Rachel plays her own records and sings along with them.  She was a singer before the war.  A fellow arrives at Rob's place.  Rob and Rachel try to hide.  The man calls out for Miss Stein.  He says the Germans found her I.D. and name in the farmhouse.  He also tells Mr. Maalderink (Rob) that the Germans also know that he is with Miss Stein.  Rob and Rachel come out of hiding.  The man says he is only warning them.  They must leave the area.  Rachel asks for help, so the man tells the two to pack light, but bring a lot of money  -- enough for a year.  Rob gives Rachel a ride on his bike to the city.  German soldiers wolf whistle at her as she passes by on the bike.  She goes to see Mr. Smaal, a man her father told her to contact if she was ever in trouble.  She asks him for enough money to survive for an entire year, but he only agrees to give her half that amount. 

Rob and Rachel are transported with some other refugees to a meeting place where there are more refugees.  Among the refugees, are Rachel's father, mother and brother.  They are very happy to see one another.  They are placed on a barge pushed by a tug boat.  At night, a German patrol boat filled with German soldiers opens fire on the barge.  Rachel is the only survivor.  She was able to jump into the water and swim to safety.  Later she sees the German commander (named Franken) responsible for the massacre.  She watches as the Germans collect all the escape money from the dead bodies. 

Someone finds Rachel and takes her to contacts that help her.  She is transported in a casket to a incinerator run by the Dutch resistance.  Rachel dies her hair blonde and is given the name of Ellis de Vries. 

Five months later.  Ellis is told that a woman has dropped out of the resistance and they want to know if she will replace her.  Rachel is very willing to help.  She is given the task of playing the girlfriend of Hans.  The Germans are less likely to check couples.  What they want to do is to bug German Gestapo headquarters.  While conferring about this, German soldiers bust through the door and a fire fight begins.  All five of the soldiers are killed. 

On a train, Ellis and Hans worry that they will have their papers checked.  Ellis is a quick thinker and she suddenly slaps Hans very hard and yells "pervert" at him.  She leaves the train car and chooses a train compartment occupied by a German officer.  He is  Hauptsturmfuhrer Mntze, head of the Dutch Gestapo.  Ellis starts talking with Mntze about his hobby, collecting stamps.  He tells her that he is missing a lot of the Dutch stamps with Queen Wilhelmina on them.  The identification paper checkers arrive, but Mntze just tells them that he is busy and to go away.  They do. 

A truck belonging to the Kuipers family firm swerves to miss hitting a child in the road and crash into the Kuipers building.  The hungry Dutch kids run to pick up the cabbages flung to the ground by the truck crash.  The police come over to chase the children away and discover that the truck is carrying hidden fire arms.  The Gestapo is called and the three men in the driver's compartment are beaten and then arrested.  One of those captured is Tim Kuipers, the son of Gerben Kuipers, the owner. 

The Kuipers firm has to start hiding evidence of their connections with the Dutch resistance.  Gerben gives orders to tell everyone that their cover has been blown.  Later Gerben asks Ellis if she would be willing to have sex with Mntze in order to get inside information from the Germans.  Ellis agrees to do it.  Before beginning this assignment, she has sex with Hans. 

Ellis goes to visit Mr. Smaal again.  She tells him the story of how Van Gein fooled the Jewish refugees and then killed them for their money.  Ellis then asks Mr. Small for something from his safe, namely some Queen Wilhelmina stamps.  He obliges her.  Ellis then goes to see Mntze.  There she meets a Dutch woman secretary for the Germans named Ronnie.  She gets into see Mntze and he is very pleased to receive the stamps.  He invites her to a dance that night. 

At the party Ellis sees Franken, the man responsible for the massacre of her family.  She runs from the dance room and throws up in the bathroom.  Mntze chases after her and she explains that she drank too much champagne.  They go back to the dance room.  Ellis sings "Naughty Lola" while Franken plays the piano.  She's a hit with her audience.  Mntze goes to bed with Ellis.  Seeing her black roots, he thinks that she may be Jewish and tells her so.  Ellis is very cool and calm and asks him "So what?"  Ellis is too pretty for Mntze to turn her in.  He later tells Ellis that he was married and had two children but they were killed in an Allied air raid.  At the instigation of Franken, Ellis is given a job at German headquarters.  Now she works with Ronnie.  There she runs into Mr. Smaal.  She is shocked to see him, but he tells her he is there to negotiate with Mntze for better terms for the Dutch. 

Franken gives the execution orders for Tim and his associates to Mntze to sign, but Mntze refuses to sign.  Mntze goes looking for Ellis who is hiding a microphone given to her by Mr. Staal on the back of a German portrait.  She just finishes as Mntze arrives. 

Ellis rides her bike to the incinerator.  The members of the resistance are sitting around laughing at the sound of Ronnie fooling around with Franken.  A littler later Ellis recognizes the voice of Van Gein.  She wants the resistance to kill Franken.  But Gerben tells the group that they are not going to kill Franken or Mntze.  There will be a terrible retribution exacted by the Germans for the murder(s).  Instead Hans and his group will kidnap Van Gein.  Ellis goes with them since she is the only one who can recognize the man.  The kidnapping attempt, however, goes terribly wrong.  The chloroform seems to have no effect on Van Gein and he breaks free of his captors.  He shoots one of the kidnappers.  Hans shoots Van Gein twice, but the man gets away.  Hans chases after him, but is bushwhacked and knocked to the ground.  To save Hans, Theo the driver has to shoot Van Gein. 

Hans removes a bullet from his wounded comrade.  He notices on the bottle of chloroform that the chemical has expired.  No wonder it seemed to have no effect on Van Gein.  Gerben is very mad when he learns that the kidnappers killed Van Gein.  He says there will be a retribution of 40 Dutchmen. But Gerben has another idea.  He has the blue prints of the headquarters' building from the time when it was a bank. 

Ellis goes to see Mntze.  He holds a gun on her, while he tells her that he knows that she works with the Dutch resistance.  But once again, Mntze does not want to lose Ellis and backs down.  Mntze tries to expose Franken to their joint superior.  The General forces Franken to open his safe, expecting to find the money stolen from wealthy Jews killed by him and Van Gein.  But the strategy did not work.  Franken must have been informed of what was going to happen.  There is no money or jewels in the safe and now Mntze is on the hot seat.  Franken tturns the spotlight on his accuser.  He tells the General that Mntze has been negotiating with the Dutch resistance to call a truce between them and the Germans.  Mntze tells the General that he was just trying to stop any more deaths, seeing as how the Russian soldiers are at the doorstep of Berlin.  But the General has Mntze arrested.  He will be executed for collaborating with the resistance. 

A plan is made to free Tim and his two associates from the German prison.  Ellis demands that they also save Mntze or she will quit working with the resistance.  They agree to her terms.  Ellis goes back to German headquarters.  There Ronnie tells her how worried she is.  The Germans are going to lose and what will become of her.  Ellis likes Ronnie and tries to reassure her.  Ronnie suddenly realizes that Ellis is working as a spy. 

Ellis opens up the coal bin doors to make it accessible by the resistance.  She then goes up to sing at the birthday party for Hitler.  Hans and his men are able to free the prisoners.  Franken dances with Ellis.  In the prison area, German soldiers suddenly ambush the resistance.  Only Hans is able to get away.  Everyone else is killed.  (Mntze is imprisoned in another area.)  Obviously there is a snitch in the resistance group.  Hans returns to the resistance group to tell them that the mission turned out to be a trap.  

Franken has Ellis arrested.  She and Mntze will be executed.  But while Ellis waits in her jail cell, Ronnie gives a sex show to distract the German guards, allowing the resistance and Mntze to free Ellis.  Ellis and Mntze get away and stay together for a while until they hear over the radio that the Germans have surrendered to the Allies.  The war may be over, but the Dutch think that Ellis was a double agent working for the Germans and want her killed.  Franken tries to make an escape with the loot from the dead Jewish refugees, but he is killed by Hans, who now takes control of the loot. 

Ellis and Mntze confront Mr. Smaal and his wife with the accusation of his cooperating with the Germans to kill Jewish refugees and then keep a share of their money.  Smaal admits it, but says he was not the only one involved in the scheme.  He says he has arranged to surrender to the Canadians where he will plead his case.  The doorbell rings and Mr. Smaal heads downstairs to answer the door.  Mr. and Mrs. Small are shot and killed by an unknown assailant.  Mntze chases after the man, but is recognized on the street and taken into custody.  Ellis is also arrested, but not before she is able to take Mr. Smaal's black book with the names of his accomplices and victims.         

At the Canadian headquarters Mntze is shocked to see his General working with them.  The General bullies and threatens the Canadian officer in charge saying that the military law says that the German army can execute those of their army condemned to death before the surrender to the Allies.  The next morning the General gives the firing squad the order to fire.  Mntze is executed.

Ellis is turned over to a group of Dutch sadists who abuse the prisoners in their charge.  The head sadist beats Ellis and then has a huge container of sewage dumped on her naked body.  Luckily Hans arrives with Allied help and they save Ellis and the others.  Hans shows Ellis the loot he took from Franken.  He also tells her the bad news that Mntze was executed.  Ellis starts sobbing so hard that her whole body shakes.  Hans gives her an injection of something to calm her down.  As Ellis starts to get drowsy she notices that the bottle is labeled insulin.  He has given her an insulin overdose.  Apparently Mr. Smaal's Dutch accomplice was Hans.  Ellis is able to safe herself by eating a large chocolate bar.  She then jumps from the outside balcony where the celebrating crowd catches her.  Ellis is able to get away. 

Ellis learns that Hans has just disappeared along with the Jewish loot.  She talks with Mr. Kuipers and convinces him that it was not she who was working with the Germans, but Mr. Smaal and Hans.  Ellis shows him the black book with the proof.  Later Ellis discovers the jeep used by Hans for his get away.  She and Mr. Kuipers figure out that Hans took the hearse and the loot to make his escape.  They call into the authorities and learn that the hearse recently went through a check point near Diep.  The two "detectives" jump in the jeep and pursue Hans.  They catch up with the driver.  Mr. Kuipers knocks the man out when he tries to resist.  Then they discover Hans hiding in the casket in the back of the hearse.  Ellis and her teammate start to tighten the screws on the lid of the casket.  Then Ellis uses her necklace to further tighten the screws to the point that it cuts off the air supply to the casket.  As Ellis and Mr. Kuipers wait by a nearby lake, Hans slowly suffocates to death. 

Back to the present.  Rachel's husband and two children come down to lakeside to pick her up.  She returns with them to the heart of the kibbutz, paid for with the money from dead Jewish Dutch refugees. 

 

My wife and I enjoyed the movie very much.  It kept our interest throughout and surprised us at the end.  The very pretty Carice van Houten as Rachel / Ellis did a spectacular job.  She gives a very sexy performance as well.  The story is based on true events. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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