Two Outstanding European Films
31st Toronto International Film Festival
Lucille de Saint-Andre
Two outstanding European films during the recent Toronto International Film Festival were Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek, Black Book, and Ich Bin Die Andere, I am The Other Woman, by Margarethe von Trotta, German pioneer women’s director.
Dutch Director Verhoeven is known for such films as Turkish Delight, proclaimed the best Dutch film of the century, and Basic Instinct. In Black Book, the more than two-hour Dutch thriller, you think you’ve barely sat through 15 minutes at the edge of your chair until you wake up in a Toronto movie house leaving the flaming Dutch Resistance behind on the screen.
Brrrrrrr....what a movie! What an experience! Betrayal, double crossings, treachery, loyalty, succumb to a desperate drive to live, to survive--when all else fails. This World War II film is based on Paul Verhoeven’s passionate 1977 Dutch drama Soldier of Orange--World War II-and it hits all the proposed points.
The plot twists and turns, blending friend and foe and separating them again, tossing them neatly into unexpected pits and spitting them out again as on top of a wave-to live or to die.
In the summer of World War II 1944 former chanteuse Rachel Steinn, a Jew, (Carice van Houten) hides from the Nazis when her refuge is bombed. Hastily she flees the German occupation and is reunited with her family in liberated Allied territory. They and a group of other Jews hire a ship to escape to freedom but are betrayed when their ship is bombed and all the refugees destroyed.
Rachel as the lone survivor changes her name and joins the Resistance. Their leader convinces her to spy on the Germans by infiltrating their security service and save his young son from being executed. She changes her hair colour from a fetching brunette to a ravishing blonde, ready for anything. Soon enough she meets the handsome Obersturmbandfuehrer and seduces him to find out what he knows. She further plants a bug of her own and soon things get so involved that no one knows which info is correct and which is fake. There is move and counter-move and our heroine has her hands full to stay ahead of the game and has to use her wits to stay alive. Moreover, she falls in love with the handsome German (Sebastian Koch) and attempts to save him as the war ends.
The film has a terrific cast of Netherlands’ top actors who sparkle in multi-dimensions. Carice van Houten got a big hand at the Public Viewing, took off her shoes to be more comfortable and said this is the first time she’s faced an international audience. Director Verhoeven praised her for her gutsy performance and said it bothered him to make her repeat painful scenes. Black Book should establish her as an international star.
Ich Bin Die Andere, I Am The Other Woman, widely known woman pioneer German director Margarethe von Trotta goes out on a limb in a sort of re-enactment of a woman with multiple personalities who cannot remember some of her actions and probably feels that she cannot be held responsible for them either. This type of film has been done in the 1957 version of The Three Faces of Eve, directed by Nunnally Johnson, with Joanne Woodward as Eve. In this film Eve is a modest drab housewife, good time girl and passable sophisticate.
Von Trotta, who directed Rosa Luxemburg (‘86) and the much admired Rosenstrasse (2003), went much farther than Eve and presents us with almost two hours of emotional fluctuations of wild swinging pendulum of a severely inhibited young woman and a wildly provocative sex-pot (Katja Riemann) forced to seduce men to prove she’s alive by brandishing her form of sexuality. As she carries on one might almost pat her silver wig or give her a pat on a red-clad derriere, saying, "There, there, life is earnest, life is real, calm yourself and take a load of, m’dear."
But alas, it’s not to be. As the serious young businesswoman Carolin Winter is too timid to speak up, especially vis-à-vis her father, played by Armin Mueller-Stahl, a stern wheelchair-bound patriarch who dominates his wife and his secretary. The young man who falls in love with her as a call girl and businesswoman and papa’s darling hopes to save her but never really has a chance. He proposes marriage but her father assures him that he can only possess her body, but, like in the old Russian joke, never her soul. So, when it comes to the ceremony, both wheelchair-bound papa and red-clad daughter with the silver wig commit suicide by making the ascending alpine lift (funicular), crash down.
This film has multiple negatives: lust, prostitution, lies, treachery, betrayal, incest and suicide. It’s said to be inspired by the paintings by Gustav Klimt. But did it also need a close-up of Carolin’s vagina?
Send mail to email@example.com
questions or comments about this web site.