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Film / Black Book
aka: Zwartboek

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Black Book (Zwartboek in Dutch) is a 2006 Dutch film taking place in late 1944/early 1945, during the last months of the Occupation of The Netherlands by Nazi Germany.

It tells the story of Rachel Stein (Carice Van Houten), a Jewish woman who, after her hiding place got bombed and her family got killed after being ambushed when trying to reach liberated territory, becomes involved with the Hagueish resistance. She dyes her hair blonde, changes her name to Ellis de Vries and seduces the Hauptsturmführer of the local Nazi security service for spy purposes. This gets her an administrative job at the HQ, where she comes across the man responsible for killing her family.

Following this is romance, more escape attempts, deception and betrayal, continuing even after the Allied tanks are rolling in and liberating the country.


This was Paul Verhoeven's first Dutch film after more than twenty years of Hollywood. It's a Spiritual Antithesis of sorts to his earlier war film Soldier of Orange.

Not to be confused with Black Books.

Provides examples of:

  • All Issues Are Political Issues: Drinking to the Queen is a problem if you're a Communist.
  • America Won World War II: Averted. The Allies seen are either Canadian or British, who were actually assigned the job of advancing into the Netherlands and Northern Germany; the Americans advanced through Belgium, Northern France and then Rhineland. The only Americans seen are the B-17 bomber that drops its load on top of the house Rachel was staying at after it was hit by German flak.
  • Anti-Villain: Müntze.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Hans Akkermans, seemingly one of the morally just, a doing-the-best-with-what's-available type rather than the skeevy, barely competent sort.
    • Of course it turns out Akkermans was selling information on his clients to the Germans.
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  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Müntze was a good-looking man while Franken, well, not so much.
  • Berserk Button / Disproportionate Retribution: Theo is ultra-Christian and can't bring himself to kill. Even if you shoot at and strangle his friends, Theo won't kill you. Set up wealthy Jewish families for death, Theo won't kill you. Blaspheme, Theo will kill you.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Multilingual, really. One will hear Dutch, German, English, and Hebrew.
  • Black and Grey Morality: While a few of the Nazis and collaborators are portrayed as flat-out vile, the Hauptsturmführer is a friendly Nazi willing to negotiate a truce, and no one on the good side really comes out shining, not even the devout Christian.
  • Bodybag Trick: A somewhat more old-fashioned variation, with people crossing checkpoints using coffins, deathly make-up, and stories of contagious diseases. Doesn't work for Hans. After getting caught, it's made into a deathtrap by screwing it shut all nice and tight-like.
  • The Cameo: Famous Dutch comedian and actor Theo Maassen is one of the post-liberation abusers of collaborators.
  • The Cast Show Off: All the songs sung by Rachel/Ellis are sung by Carice van Houten herself.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ellis/Rachel talks about a diabetic man from her cabaret days who'd eat some chocolate when he'd take too much insulin. Towards the end of the movie, she uses this knowledge when Hans tries to kill her with an overdose of insulin.
  • Les Collaborateurs
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Hans is suffocated to death in a coffin he was trying to use to escape.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Müntze isn't married, though he used to be.
  • Dye or Die: Rachel has to bleach her black hair to pass as Ellis. All of it. The audience is treated to a scene in which part of the job is being done. It's not the part that involves the hair on her head.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: In order to get into SD HQ.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Between Ellis and a member of the resistance group during a train-wide identity check.
  • Fan Disservice: Full frontal nudity from the obese and disgusting Franken. Later in the movie, a woman being forcibly stripped and forced to sing, then being showered in a large bucket of shit as punishment.
  • Fanservice: Nudity from Ellis/Rachel and Ronnie. It's a Paul Verhoeven movie with a female main character so it's a given.
  • Friendly Enemy: Müntze, while a Nazi officer and therefore firmly on the wrong side of things, is a friendly, kind man trying to do good.
  • Friend or Foe:
  • From Bad to Worse: Pretty much the whole plot, and that's saying something with a movie where the lead's whole family was killed in the first ten minutes.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens in Israel in the 1950s when a Christian tour group visits a kibbutz and one of the group members by chance encounters the main protagonist Rachel, her friend from the Second World War period, who she didn't realize was Jewish. The movie then flashes back to tell Rachel's story.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: All over the place.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • If you're a former Nazi and a woman often seen to fraternize with Nazis, going back to a place where people will recognize you as such shortly after the liberation might not be such a good idea. And yet...
    • Akkermans trying to kill Racehl with an insulin overdose and leaves her alone with a bag he showed her minutes before was filled with family-size chocolate bars.
  • Inspired by...
  • Irony: Muntze is executed by a German firing squad for negotiating with the Resistance... after the liberation, because technically speaking Nazi-era German law is still in effect for officers. Hans lampshades it as absurd. It's especially jarring to see Canadian soldiers handing out rifles and bullets to German POWs whom they had recently been fighting.
  • Karma Houdini: Ronnie is a minor one, as she didn't do anything wrong besides fraternizing with the Nazis and she helps Muntze and Ellis to escape, but she still manages to escape unpunished for being a collaborator.
  • Kill 'Em All: Hans Akkermans' attempts to kill everyone from the resistance who might identify him as The Mole. He almost succeeds.
  • The Mole: Doctor Hans Akkermans, though Rachel/Ellis is initially suspected to be one.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Hans Akkermans again. Seems a good chap bravely fighting for the cause until we find out he wasn't quite that.
  • Nazi Gold: The money Franken stole from the Jews he lured to their deaths. Possibly better described as plunder, as he didn't hand it over to his superiors and the Reich as he should have.
  • Noble Demon: Müntze is something of one as he was trying to negotiate with the resistance and was only killed because of it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dr. Akkermans is loosely based on the real-life French serial murderer Marcel Petiot, who killed Jews and other fugitives to take their belongings. Unlike Akkerman, Petiot had no connections with either the resistance or the Nazis. He just claimed to be part of an escape network that did not exist.
  • Not So Different: The way the Dutch treated their collaborator compatriots (or people said to be collaborators) immediately after the liberation was terribly harsh. They got called on it by Hans and an Allied military man and were made to leave.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Kautner.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: He's not.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil:
    • The man pretending to be a resistance member to lure Jews eager to leave occupied territory to their doom gets shot by the resistance when kidnapping him fails.
    • Franken gets killed by Hans Akkermans on his getaway boat when he attempts to leave the country with the valuable things he stole from the corpses of Jews.
    • After being found out, Hans attempts to escape the country, but Rachel and the former resistance leader catch up with him and leave him to suffocate in a coffin.
    • The treatment of the suspected collaborators, according to their jailers' view.
  • La Résistance
  • The Reveal: Dr. Hans Akkermans, a guy pretty high up in the resistance group and initially lauded as a hero by the people after the liberation, betrayed everyone and delivered entire families of Jews to the Nazis.
  • Run for the Border: Rachel and her family tried to get to a liberated part of the country by boat. This was a set-up, organized by people who wanted to kill the Jews and take their valuables. Only Rachel survived and she did not manage to make it across.
  • Shot at Dawn: Müntze. No last minute heroic rescue.
  • Shout-Out: Ellis has to sing "Ich bin die fesche Lola" to entertain German officers. It was sung by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: Ellis' knowledge of how to cure an insulin overdose (by consuming massive amounts of sugar).
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ellis and Müntze.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Theo.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Theo, a devout Christian who previously refused to kill even as his friends were threatened, ends up shooting a collaborator because he was very upset by the amount of blasphemy uttered by said collaborator.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: At the beginning Ronnie meets Rachel in Israel, some ten years after the war, which leads Rachel to remember certain events. After the final 1945 scene we return to Israel where we see her family and find out that the kibbutz was founded by reclaimed money the Nazis stole from Jews.

Alternative Title(s): Zwartboek


Example of: