Black Book ★★★★★

A defiant alternative to the neutered respectability of Hollywood period dramas about historical tragedies, Verhoeven’s exhilarating epic fully understands and elevates the emotional and psychological extremes that constitute a human fiasco as messy as WWII and the Holocaust, accounting for these disparate poles (massacre, debauchery, grief, triumph) on a scene-by-scene basis, other times a shot-by-shot basis, and sometimes even within the space of a single image. In hindsight, history can never be looked at as having clean binaries; tragedies make ideologically convoluted puddles of the masses, dividing sympathies and splintering accountability until the next war comes along, confusing everything yet again. On an individual level, one must exploit everything available to them—their body, their brain, their intuition—to preserve dignity. Everything I really want to say about this masterpiece (and I reserve this word for very special occasions) right now is in these two pieces by Ed Howard at Only the Cinema. I can’t wait to watch it again.

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