Black Book

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Black Book Movie Poster Image
Mature WWII drama taps into base human instinct.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 135 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

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 graphi... Continue reading
Adult Written byJudy I. November 6, 2016

Intriguing

Age wise 20 and up just because my 20 year old didn't like the sexual innuendo parts of the movie but had a very interesting dialogue. Some parts were funn... Continue reading
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.
Kid, 11 years old December 8, 2009

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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