The Black Book interviews

My review of the film

The Black Book interviews
By David Ashley

Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch became a couple on the set of Black Book, and enter the interview holding hands, answering questions as a collective unit.  Tiny little corrections between the two.  They’re kind of cute together, but it seems strained.  They’re being patient with one another (by now, Koch’s The Lives of Others has won best foreign film.  Good for him).

Black Book concerns itself with the misadventures of Rachel Stein (Van Houten) as she infiltrates the ranks of an SS unit by shacking up with very head of the Gestapo (Koch), and the subsequent betrayals that are laid out between the all the players.  It’s a nice return to Dutch form for Verhoeven.

Koch plays Muntze, the head of the Gestapo in (Holland?), but he’s a swell guy despite it.  Thankfully, Black Book is able to portray Nazism as simply just another form of government, full of real people with real problems, as opposed to the vengeful Spielbergian dehumanization of the Nazis, which for taboo reasons remained uncriticized.

213:  What was most satisfying for each of you about playing the character you played?
After a brief “lost in translation” clarification of my question, answers came.
SK: I liked that he’s not the mean Nazi; he’s a double character.  When he’s in his uniform you don’t like him, in the beginning, because he is a Nazi.  Then you do like a double-take and you say, “There’s something behind you?”  This is sort of very fine to act.  You feel in the beginning that you have this distance, then you feel that you like him and you want to approach him – and it’s good that you approach him because you see he has a good heart.

213: Do you think he believes in the Nazi ideal?
SK: Not anymore, definitely.  He starts, like every German fellow, like a lot of people.  But he was very BLAH, he even said, “The war was lost.”  If you said the war was lost they could shoot you.  Yeah, so he was definitely not “in it” anymore.  And you can see that he handles all his orders in a very human manner, and tries to avoid bloodshed.  It’s based on a real character, like Munt.  He was really saving a lot of lives.

CvH: And he was a real stamp collector.

SK: [chuckle] Yes, he was a real stamp collector.

213: And what about you, Carice, with Rachel?
CvH: What I liked very much was the fact that she, in the end, is not the hero we see in the book that says, “I forgive you.  I let you live.”  She just says, “No.  I’m sorry.”  And it doesn’t mean that’s ‘the way,’ but it shows the reality that she’s a human being as well.  That’s what the film is about.  It will never stop if nobody will say “I forgive you.”  It’s almost a Christian cry for peace, that’s what I feel.

SK: The film shows that it’s not possible, that war will go on and on.  It’s actually a film that’s against war, and in the end she kills him.  And you’re with her, because she’s so right.  This is life, you know.  You want to have it good, but it’s very difficult to do it.

CvH: Like as well with the character of Hans…he’s the asshole, in the end, but he was forced with a gun against his head.  What are you gonna do?

We then cutely agreed that life is full of duality.  Another interviewer inquires about the stage work that both actors missed as a result of the film’s going over-schedule, and Carice civilly reminds Sebastian that she, in fact, missed two productions, which Sebastian does not remember when reminded.  Adorable.

Paul Verhoeven.  Perhaps it was the effect of caffeine or a similar agent, but Verhoeven is rather animated.  Very energetic, but I surmised also slightly, subtly nervous.  Loves talking about himself and his work.  Adjectives “maniac,” “womanizer” and “intellectual” were lovingly dropped by Carice during her interview.  Ask one question, he’ll pour his brain out on any subject that tangentially relates until his lungs are exhausted or he is interrupted by another question.  Basically, he proved himself to be exactly like what you’d expect.  He may be a maniacal, somewhat intellectual womanizer – but he’s also a man who loves telling stories and enjoying himself.  And his films positively reflect that, if you don’t have a stick up your ass or unshakably high artistic standards.

Due to a lamentable amateur snafu the priceless 30-minute interview turned out to not have been recorded, with the exceptions of the first and last 3-minute intervals.  Verhoeven did admit that Sharon Stone is a bitch for giving him heat about flashing her yahoo in Basic Instinct, when she most certainly knew what she was doing beforehand.

written by David Ashley