Log Line

As World War II nears its end, a young Dutch Jewess attempts to survive amidst the cruelty of the Nazi occupation in its waning months.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven

Director(s): Paul Verhoeven

Production Co.(s): Fu Works, Egoli Tossell Film, Clockwork Pictures, More...

Black Book (Dutch title: Zwartboek) chronicles the journey of a young Dutch Jewish singer named Rachel as she struggles to remain free from capture and to help other Jews to survive in the dangerous environment of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during the waning months of World War II. Although the film does not revolve around a single, overarching action or mission on the part of its main character and is more of a tale than a story (see, "The Difference Between a Story and a Tale"), most of Rachel's efforts may be said to stem from a single vector of intent—that of keeping.

When we-the-audience first meet Rachel—at an Israeli kibbutz in 1956—she seems to have achieved a happy stability in her life as a grade school teacher. But it is here that a chance encounter with wartime acquaintance who happens to visit the kibbutz on a Holy Land tour sparks the recollections that constitute the bulk of the story.

Rachel's wartime story begins in 1944 in her native Netherlands, where she is being hidden from the Nazi occupation by a Christian family in the attic of their farmhouse. When the farmhouse is accidentally destroyed by a low-flying Allied bomber, she is forced to flee or risk capture by the German forces who arrive in response to the resulting fire.

With the help of a local boy, she finds temporary refuge that is interrupted in the dead of night by a mysterious stranger named Van Gein, who suggests that she is in danger of capture, offers to help her flee through the Biesbosch to the liberated part of the country, and advises her to bring along enough money and valuables to allow her to get by comfortably in her new locale.

After visiting her father's attorney, Mr. Smaal, to obtain paper money and jewels, she rendezvous with Van Gein and is reunited on a river boat with her family, who have been hiding elsewhere and have also been offered the chance to flee (and also advised to bring along many valuables). When a Nazi patrol boat appears out of the darkness that night and opens fire, Rachel escapes into the water and watches in horror from a hiding place in the reeds as her fellow passengers, including her family, are gunned down and their corpses are robbed.

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