Black Book Movie Poster Image

Black Book

Mature WWII drama taps into base human instinct.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 135 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Antisemitism, sexism, coercion, torture, and murder are all part and parcel of the storyline and setting. But the heroine is a brave, resourceful woman.

Violence

Nearly unrelenting violence, played out in full gore. A man is shot and his brain explodes; dead bodies are dug up from mass graves; lots of gunfire, hitting, slapping, and more.

Sex

Graphic nudity (including a urination scene and full-frontal shots of both men and women), simulated sex acts, sexual banter. Rachel/Ellis dyes her pubic hair in front of a mirror.

Language

Antisemitic hate words and swearing -- "s--t," "damn," etc. -- in subtitles.

Consumerism

No products of note, save for Cadbury and a specific kind of stamp.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Apropos for the era, there's plenty of drinking and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this subtitled World War II drama from the director of Basic Instinct is intense from start to finish. Wartime takes its toll on all the characters, robbing them of their humanity. The lead character, Rachel/Ellis, sleeps with the enemy to infiltrate their turf, and people are dispensed with as the killers see fit. The violence is frequent and bloody, the sex is quite graphic, and characters swear, drink, and smoke.

What's the story?

BLACK BOOK chronicles the survival journey of Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten), a Jewish chanteuse who becomes a spy for the Dutch Resistance after her entire family is slaughtered by the Nazis. Rachel goes undercover to seduce a Gestapo officer (Sebastian Koch) so she can gain access to his office and plant a microphone there. But is the enemy truly an enemy? And are her comrades to be trusted?

Is it any good?

QUALITY

No question about it: Paul Verhoeven's Black Book (aka Zwartboek) is a World War II thriller that still manages to surprise -- no small thing, considering how many like it have been made. Van Houten is outstanding -- courageous and conflicted, bold and vulnerable, her emotions accessible through a simple gesture (the tilt of her head, the slump in her walk) or even a flick of her eyes. She's incandescent in every frame, even when she's covered entirely in feces (a scene that's disturbing in its plainness and cruelty).

The plot's somewhat rudimentary feel hobbles the storytelling. And, except for the leads, the characters are obviously good or bad, even when the filmmaker thinks he's being subtle. But objections like that aside, what's left is a movie that proves that Verhoeven's talent is bigger than Showgirls and Basic Instinct. The last few minutes, which capture a post-war Ellis (now back to Rachel) in an idyll as far removed from tragedy as can be, are actually moving.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's notions of good and evil. Are "bad guys" and "good guys" clearly delineated? Should they be? Also, what drives Ellis to place herself in the line of fire? Is it altruism or revenge? How could she fall in love with a Nazi, when Nazis killed her family? What drives a person to betray others for their own gain? Families also can discuss what this movie has in common, if anything, with director Paul Verhoeven's earlier, infamously sensationalistic films, like Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Does it share any characteristics with those movies? Do you think filmmakers have a certain style that affects all of their projects?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 4, 2007
DVD/Streaming release date:September 25, 2007
Cast:Carice Van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman
Director:Paul Verhoeven
Studio:A-Film
Genre:Thriller
Run time:135 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence, graphic nudity, sexuality and language.

This review of Black Book was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Schindler's List Movie Poster Image
    Accurate, heartbreaking masterpiece about the Holocaust.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 17 years old Written bymilograamans June 1, 2009

Definitely not for

Very good movie, but at almost 17, I was very disturbed and covered my eyes a lot. There are scenes of graphic nudity and graphic violence, etc. Not for kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 10 and 11 year old Written bymarinite September 19, 2009

Great movie for Adults, definitely not for kids

Good movie (for adults) about a Dutch Jewish woman losing her family to the Nazis and working undercover with the Dutch resistance. Very violent, lots of graphic nudity that may make teens uncomfortable. it's a gripping tale, engrossing, dark. But definitely not for your kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old December 8, 2009
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking