MicheleHTML> The History of Cinema. Paul Verhoeven: biography, reviews, ratings, best films

Paul Verhoeven


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

6.5 Business Is Business (1971)
6.8 Turkish Delight (1973)
5.0 Keetje Tippel (1975)
6.0 Soldier of Orange (1977)
6.0 Spetters (1980)
6.8 The Fourth Man (1983)
5.8 Flesh and Blood (1985)
7.0 Robocop (1987)
7.2 Total Recall (1990)
7.2 Basic Instinct (1992)
7.0 Showgirls (1995)
6.8 Starship Troopers (1997)
5.5 The Hollow Man (2000)
7.3 Black Book (2006)
5.0 Tricked (2012)
7.2 Elle (2016)
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If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. Paul Verhoeven (Netherlands, 1938) debuted with Business Is Business (1971).

Turks Fruit/ Turkish Delight (1973) is an adaptation of Jan Wolkers' novel "Turks Fruit".

The big-budget (and rarely engaging) period drama Keetje Tippel (1975) is based on the memoirs of 19th-century Neel Doff.

Soldier of Orange (1977) is a moralistic war movie.

Spetters (1980) is a violent drama about juvenile delinquents.

The Fourth Man (1983) is an effective thriller.

Flesh and Blood (1985) was his tedious and overlong English-language debut.

RoboCop (1987)

Total Recall (1990), loosely based on Philip Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (1966), is another sci-fi movie.

Il film e` ambientato in un futuro fantascientifico. Un innocuo e bonario construction worker, Doug, felicemente sposato con una donna attraente e affettuosa, e` affascinato da Marte e decide di comprare una vacanza su Marte da un'agenzia che e` specializzata in viaggi virtuali. Chiede di diventare un eroico agente segreto. Nel laboratorio qualcosa va pero` storto perche' lui si risveglia isterico prima ancora che l'abbiano potuto programmare. Il gestore dell'agenzia/laboratorio ordina di cancellare la sua memoria e di dimetterlo frettolosamente. Appena uscito, viene aggredito da un gruppo di uomini che vogliono sapere della sua missione su Marte. Li deve uccidere tutti. A casa non fa a tempo a raccontare alla moglie l'accaduto che viene aggredito di nuovo, da lei stessa, trasformata da belva di kung fu. Lui la disarma e la costringe a confessare: non e` sua moglie, lui la ricorda come sua moglie perche' quella e` la memoria che gli hanno piantato nel cervello. Da questo momento lui non sa piu` quali dei suoi ricordi sono veri e quali sono artificiali. Altri uomini irrompono nell'appartamento per dargli la caccia. Il capo (Viktor) e` l'amante della ragazza, e forse e` anche geloso di Doug. Lo inseguono nella metropolitana, facilitati da un bug installato nel suo cervello.
Un uomo che si dichiara suo collega su Marte gli porta una valigetta, come da suoi ordini se fosse scomparso. Ma Doug non ricorda. Dentro la valigetta ci sono soldi, una pistola che costruisce un ologramma di lui e un video... il video e` di se stesso che gli spiega chi realmente e`: un agente segreto, convertito da una donna a una causa piu` giusta. Gli spiega come usare un apparecchio che lo liberera` del bug elettronico nel suo cervello e gli da` istruzioni su cosa fare: prima tappa Marte.
A guidare i killer e` il feroce capo dei servizi segreti su Marte, impegnato a combattere i ribelli. Sempre inseguito dai killer, Doug Quaid vola su Marte e si reca all'hotel indicatogli. Una nota scritta con la sua stessa calligrafia gli dice di cercare Melina. Appena esce, esplode una bomba piantata dai ribelli. Un cab driver di colore lo porta nella zona a luci rosse. Nel club lo conoscono tutti, amici e nemici, ma lui non ricorda nessuno. Melina era la sua ragazza, ma lo butta fuori quando lui le confessa di non ricordarla.
Un uomo gli si presenta e gli rivela che nessuno dei due e` davvero li`, sono entrambi soltanto nel sogno che gli e` stato trapiantato nel cervello. Lui, in realta`, si trova legato alla sedia del laboratorio. Non possono farlo tornare indietro perche' lui e` affetto da un trauma che gli fa inventare tutte le peripezie che sta vivendo contro la volonta` degli scienziati del laboratorio. E` soltanto una lunga illusione causata da una sua malattia mentale. Gli fa vedere la ragazza bionda, anche quella costruita come da contratto su sua richiesta per la sua vacanza su Marte. Lo scienziato e la ragazza lo convincono a ingerire una pillola per guarire dalla sua psicosi, in modo che il laboratorio possa farlo uscire dal sogno. Ma all'ultimo momento lui non si fida: sputa la pillola e uccide l'uomo, per dimostrare che non si tratta di un sogno. Irrompono alcuni sgherri che aiutano la ragazza a catturarlo. Irrompe Melina che stermina tutti e Doug finisce la bionda. Melina e Doug fuggono lasciando il corpo senza vita della bionda.
Il tassita li riporta al club, dopo un folle inseguimento dei killer, sempre capitanati da Viktor. Si scatena una sparatoria fra i killer di Viktor e gli uomini del club e i primi devono ripiegare. Milena lo porta nel covo sotterraneo dei ribelli, dove finalmente Doug Quaid incontra il capo dei ribelli, Quato, un mutante che compare nel ventre di uno dei suoi uomini sotto forma di un feto. Il feto tenta di leggere la sua memoria, la memoria che Doug non riesce piu` a leggere. In quella memoria i ribelli pensano che sia nascosto il segreto del dittatore (da cui la ragione per cui il dittatore lo vuole morto). Mentre Quato sta leggendo la mente di Quaid, il dittatore e Viktor esplorano uno strumento costruito 500.000 anni prima da una civilta` aliena (anche questo era nel contratto della vacanza) e la polizia irrompe nel covo. Il tassista si scopre essere un loro agente e grazie a lui catturano Milena e Doug, oltre a uccidere il feto, ovvero il capo della resistenza.
Il dittatore gli rivela che era tutto un piano fin dall'inizio, che lui stesso, Doug, si era era offerto per questa missione per catturare e uccidere il capo dei ribelli. L'unico modo per evitare il potere medianico dei mutanti era di fargli il lavaggio del cervello, per far credere loro che lui fosse sinceramente dalla loro parte, e poi lasciare che loro lo portassero dal capo. Doug non ci crede, ma il dittatore gli fa ascoltare la fine del video, in cui lui stesso, Doug, congratula Doug per la riuscita dell'impresa. Doug e Milena vengono inseriti nelle macchine per il lavaggio del cervello: Doug tornera` ad essere un perfido agente del dittatore e Milena diventera` una donna mansueta e rispettosa.
Ma l'erculeo Doug riesce a liberarsi dalla macchina e a liberare lei. Il dittatore ha fatto togliere l'aria alla sezione del club e la gente sta morendo. Doug e Melina fuggono nelle cave costruite dagli alieni e scoprono un passaggio segreto: e` una trappola. Viene circondato e massacrato dagli uomini di Viktor. Si rialza sghignazzando e li massacra: stava usando un sosia costruito con un ologramma. Doug e Viktor lottano in un ascensore che sembra salire all'infinito. Viktor viene schiacciato, Doug si ritrova a un piano misterioso... dove lo aspetta il dittatore. Il dittatore vuole far saltare in aria l'intero apparato, ma viene fermato da Melina. Doug mette in moto l'apparato, fidandosi degli alieni. Tutti e tre precipitano in un imbuto e vengono espulsi nel deserto. Le loro facce si stanno disfacendo per mancanza d'aria. Il pianeta esplode... ma alla fine dell'esplosione e` diventato un pianeta abitabile. Tutti riprendono a respirare. Rimane il dubbio che fosse semplicemente un sogno...
Un misto di Indiana Jones e di Terminator, con lo spirito del cinema come sogno innocente che e` tipico della falsa fantascienza di Spielberg. Il finale e` piu` che altro una serie di pretesti per cambiare continuamente scenari, e ovviamente scenari sempre piu` spettacolari.

Basic Instinct (1992) is an erotic thriller.

Un rock star diventato rispettabile cittadino, nonche' amico personale del sindaco, viene assassinato a casa sua mentre sta facendo l'amore con una bionda. Della bionda si vedono soltanto le spalle. La bionda gli ha legato le mani alle sbarre del letto e lo ha poi trafitto decine di volte con un punteruolo.
Nick (Michael Douglas) e il suo partner "cowboy" vengono incaricati delle indagini. Si recano dalla girlfriend del rock star, Katherine (Sharon Stone), ma trovano soltanto una sua amica, Roxie, che li manda alla villa fuori citta` di Katherine, sull'oceano. Katherine e` una donna molto avvenente (nonche' molto simile a Roxie), che li tratta con disprezzo ed esibisce il piu` freddo cinismo. Dice di essere stata l'amante di quell'uomo soltanto perche' faceva bene l'amore. E` una scrittrice di gialli, e il suo ultimo libro finisce proprio con l'omicidio di un ex rock star ucciso precisamente in quel modo. Potrebbe essere un alibi che lei si e` costruita (nessuna giuria crederebbe che lei sia stata tanto stupida da auto-accusarsi in quel modo) oppure potrebbe essere veramente la prova che non e` stata lei ma qualcuno che la vuole far incriminare.
Douglas e` appena stato prosciolto dall'accusa di aver ucciso due turisti. La polizia gli ha pero` imposto di eliminare i suoi vizi (alcool, fumo e cocaina). La persona che lo controlla e` una psichiatra, Beth, che e` anche la sua ex ragazza.
Katherine, provocante e insinuante, gli rivela che sta scrivendo un nuovo libro, in cui un detective come lui si innamora della donna sbagliata e viene ucciso da lei. Estremamente attraente e provocante, freddamente calcolatrice, sicura di se', spavalda, sincera fino alla amoralita', Katherine sostiene benissimo l'interrogatorio al commissariato, comportandosi meglio di un avvocato professionista. Durante tutto l'interrogatorio provoca Douglas, un po' facendo insinuazioni riguardo il caso scabroso in cui e` rimasto coinvolto, un po' mostrandogli le gambe e facendogli vedere che non ha niente sotto.
Passa il test della macchina della verita` con elegante disinvoltura e viene lasciata libera; ma Douglas sa che e` possibile passare il test della macchina della verita` pur essendo colpevoli: e` successo a lui. Se ne va divertita, come se ridesse dell'ingenuita` della legge e dell'impotenza di Douglas. E sembra sapere che Douglas menti` altrettanto bene, come se avesse studiato attentamente il suo caso. Douglas e` sempre piu` convinto che sia lei l'assassina.
Beth gli rivela di conoscere Katherine dai tempi del liceo e che ai tempi Katherine si era invaghita di lei. Katherine lo eccita talmente che quasi violenta Beth e si rimette a bere e fumare, come d'altronde Katherine gli aveva predetto che sarebbe successo. Katherine gli esibisce il suo corpo stupendamente attraente, da cui lui e` sempre piu` irresistibilmente ipnotizzato, ma continua a investigare. Scopre che lei va a trovare una signora che venne incriminata per aver ammazzato tutta la sua famiglia senza alcuna ragione. Scopre che Katherine ha messo insieme un file del suo caso: anche lui ha ucciso senza che ci fosse una ragione precisa. Katherine continua a sostenere che sta raccogliendo informazioni per il suo prossimo libro: usera' lui come modello per il protagonista. Lo sfotte di continuo per quell'omicidio, insinuando di continuo che lui fosse colpevole, rinfacciandogli subdolamente i suoi vizi, facendolo innervosire sempre di piu'. E intanto lo seduce fino alla follia. Gioca con lui come il gatto con il topo.
E` la sospetta che tortura il detective, non viceversa; e` lei che cerca di incastrare lui, non viceversa. I ruoli canonici sono capovolti. Lei fa a lui cio` che lui dovrebbe fare a lei per smascherarla. La sicurezza della presunta assassina e il nervosismo dell'investigatore capovolgono gli stereotipi del genere. Lo avvolge nella sua rete e lo distrugge. Lei trionfa poco alla volta, e lui crolla poco alla volta.
Sa persino che sua moglie si suicido', e insinua che forse lo fece per colpa sua. Poi gli rivela di avere un'amante femmina, Roxy: e` una lesbica.
Douglas capisce che qualcuno della polizia le ha procurato il file segreto sul suo passato e intima a Beth di rivelargli chi aveva accesso a quel file. L'unica persona oltre a Beth era Nilsson, un capitano che lo odia. Con i soldi Katherine puo` comprare tutto e tutti. Douglas lo affronta violentemente, ma viene fermato da Beth: e` ancora in prova e non puo' permettersi scatti d'ira.
Douglas va a casa ad ubriacarsi. Lo chiamano perche' Nilsson e` stato assassinato con un revolver e lui, in seguito al diverbio di prima, e' sospettato dell'omicidio. Adesso e` lui a trovarsi nella stessa situazione di Katherine: il diverbio potrebbe essere un astuto alibi per scagionarsi, oppure l'ovvio movente, oppure qualcuno voleva farlo accusare. Douglas, appena scagionato da Beth (che era stata a casa sua all'ora del delitto), propende per quest'ultima ipotesi e sa chi sospettare.
Dimesso dal servizio in attesa di chiarire il fatto, Douglas riceve la visita di Katherine. Katherine gli rivela che i suoi genitori vennero uccisi quando lei era bambina, e gli assassini non vennero mai scoperti, ne' il movente: uno dei suoi libri narra di una bambina che uccide i genitori soltanto per vedere se riuscira` a farla franca. Douglas, pedinandola, entra nel mondo della depravazione piu` amorale, in cui regnano sesso e droga senza limiti. Lei continua ad eccitarlo finche' fanno l'amore. E lui lo fa alla grande, esplode di potenza sessuale. Lei gli lega le mani al letto, ma lui lascia fare e infatti non succede nulla. Semmai e` l'amante, Roxy, a minacciarlo di morte. Douglas decide di stare al suo gioco e si comporta come se fosse pazzo di lei.
Qualcuno sull'auto di Katherine tenta di metterlo sotto. Douglas si salva e insegue l'auto, che finisce per precipitare in una scarpata. Dentro c'e` Roxy, morta. Questo incidente aumenta pero` i guai di Douglas con gli psichiatri della polizia. Beth lo mette in guardia che Katherine e` malvagia e astuta, abilissima a manipolare le persone. Ma Katherine sembra distrutta dal dolore di aver perso un'altra amicizia; e lui, convinto, la consola teneramente.
Katherine gli rivela anche che lei e una compagna del liceo fecero l'amore una volta e che questa ragazza era ossessionata da lei. Che a 16 anni Roxy uccise i fratellini con un rasoio senza alcuna ragione. Katherine giustifica in maniera semplice e naturale quella catena di strane conoscenze: come scrittrice di gialli si ispira alla vita reale e le capita di venire a contatto con molti assassini.
Douglas indaga su quella compagna di liceo e scopre che era proprio Beth, sotto un altro nome. Beth ammette di aver fatto l'amore con lei una volta, ma soltanto per sperimentare e soltanto quella volta. Gli fa anche notare che ovviamente Katherine immaginava che lui avrebbe indagato e avrebbe scoperto che era lei, Beth, quella ragazza; e che pertanto tutto era congegnato fin dall'inizio. Douglas scopre anche che il file della polizia su Beth venne prelevato da Nilsson. Scopre anche che il marito di Beth venne ucciso in circostanze misteriose, senza che si sia mai scoperto l'assassino; e che ai tempi si mormoro` di un'amante femmina di Beth. E che Nilsson aveva fatto le stesse indagini pochi giorni prima. Adesso comincia ad avere il sospetto che l'assassina sia Beth, che abbia ucciso Nilsson perche' lui aveva scoperto il suo passato. Douglas crede sempre di piu` a Katherine, che sta instillando in lui il dubbio riguardo a Beth.
Improvvisamente Katherine gli comunica che il suo libro e` terminato, il detective e` morto e pertanto lui se ne puo` andare. E lo mette alla porta senza tanti complimenti. Douglas, incredulo e sconvolto, fa soltanto in tempo a leggere qualcuna delle ultime frasi in cui si parla di un ascensore che si ferma al quarto piano.
Proprio quel giorno il suo partner e lui devono andare ad un appuntamento al quarto piano di un palazzo. Il suo partner gli dice pero` di rimanere in auto e si avvia. Qualche minuto dopo Douglas si ricorda del finale del libro e si precipita nell'edificio, ma e` troppo tardi: qualcuno ha gia` copito e il suo partner giace a terra massacrato di coltellate. Douglas sente dei passi ed estrae la pistola: e` Beth, che sostiene di essere stata chiamata li` da una misteriosa telefonata. Douglas le intima di alzare le mani, Beth le porta invece in tasca e Douglas fa fuoco. Ma in tasca Beth aveva soltanto delle chiavi, e prima di morire riesce a mormorare un "ti amo". La polizia scopre pero` sulle scale un'uniforme della polizia e una parrucca bionda, e assume che Beth si fosse travestita da Katherine per far cadere su di lei la colpa, ma sia stata invece colta in flagrante da Douglas. Per di piu` in casa di Beth si ritrovano sia la pistola che ha ucciso Nilsson, sia un file su Katherine. Tutto sembra spiegato.
Douglas guadagna di nuovo il suo posto, anche se non e` del tutto convinto. Torna da Katherine, che e` disperata perche' tutti quelli che le passano vicino muoiono. Douglas la consola. Mentre fanno l'amore lei piange. A un certo punto Katherine porta la mano sotto il letto, e Douglas si irrigidisce, ma Katherine lo abbraccia.
Sotto il letto, pero', era pronto il punteruolo...
Il finale fa pensare che Katherine fosse veramente l'assassina e che abbia risparmiato Douglas o per mero calcolo o perche' redenta da un improvviso e reale bisogno di amore.
Ambientazione fra i ricchi decadenti della California, e in particolare fra gli omosessuali.
Grande ritratto di una psicopatica e depravata che e` anche una delle menti piu` malvage e acute della storia del cinema, una delle donne fatali e corruttrici piu` enigmatiche e una delle macchine del crimine piu` perfette. Katherine e` morbosamente affascinata dall'omicidio senza ragione, dall'omicidio per il solo fine di uccidere. Tutta la sua vita non e` altro che una partita di scacchi sempre piu' difficile con la polizia e la societa', in cui lei si espone sempre di piu', e riesce sempre a vincere.
Diabolica soprattutto la sceneggiatura, che non ha soltanto i colpi di scena tipici dei gialli, ma anche tutta una serie di meta-situazioni e di auto-riferimenti: Katherine vive nella vita le storie che scrive; Katherine vive alla rovescia l'indagine di Douglas; Douglas viene accusato di un omicidio e vive la stessa situazione di Katherine.
E crudelissimo, amarissimo, il finale, con la sincera e onesta Beth che muore mormorando "ti amo" mentre il suo uomo la credera` un'assassina e dara` il suo amore proprio alla donna che ne ha causato la morte, e fatto eseguire quella condanna a morte proprio da lui.

Given the dull dialogue, bad acting and implausible plot, the horror/sci-fi movie Hollow Man (2000) relies only on visual effects.

Since the Pentagon is in a hurry to see the results of the invisibility project it has been funding, the lead scientist, Sebastian, decides to volunteer for the final experiment. Assisted by his former girlfriend Linda, whose new boyfriend Matt is also a scientist, and frigid veterinarian Sarah, Sebastian successfully disappears. The problem is that the reverse experiment fails: Sebastian can't return to be visible. Linda and the other scientists design a mask that he can wear. But evil instincts take over and soon Sebastian is roaming the streets of the city and raping women who cannot see him. He even enters Linda's apartment, possibly with the intention of raping her too, but instead finds her in Matt's arms. This only infuriates him. Linda understands that he is out of control and decides to alert their boss at the Pentagon. But Sebastian is there with them, invisible, and kills the boss before he can call his generals to start the manhunt. The news reaches the lab and the scientists begin to realize the danger. The only way to detect him is to use special sensors. He goes on a rampage and kills the scientists one by one, even Sarah. And he leaves Linda and Matt, mortally wounded, trapped inside the lab, condemned to die too. But Linda manages to get out, Matt resurrects and the lab is, of course, about to explode, and they, of course, manage to beat Sebastian. But, of course, Sebastian is still alive, and, of course, there is a final dramatic confrontation, and, of course, and, of course, he dies but we are not really sure that he died, and, of course, Matt and Linda kiss. This plot is a catalogue of stupidity.
Showgirls (1995) is a merciless portrait of the milieu of the casinos. It fails as a character study of a wasted youth, but mostly succeeds as a pulp-fiction fresco of the underworld. A cute girl, Naomi, hitchhikes from her hometown in the mountains all the way to Las Vegas. The Elvis Presley-lookalike who gives her a ride has a tough time making her talk. She is tough like a punk and pulls out a knife the moment he tries to make a pass at her. In Vegas she tries the slot machines while he takes care of her luggage. When she finishes losing her money, he's gone with her luggage. Alone and angry, she kicks a car, and five minutes later she's best friend with the owner of the car, a black girl who works in the casino. Despite her bad-ass attitude (especially when asked details about her past), the black girl, Molly, offers her a place to stay. They become permanent housemates. Naomi introduces her to a star, Crystal, who insults her. Thanks to a bouncer, James, she met in a disco, Naomi finds a job as a strip dancer in a night club. On a date with her boyfriend Zack, Crystal spots her and offers her money to have sex with both. It turns out Molly works as Crystal's personal maid.
Thanks to Crystal, she gets an audition for a show, but the producer is only interested in exploiting her body. She sends him and Crystal to hell. Then spends the day with the former bouncer, who seems to really care for her. The guy is actually trying to start his own club and show. Naomi is perfect for the job, she is just waiting for a chance to show her talent. But she still has a temper and snaps when people want to know about her past, and the bouncer has no better luck.
She is hired in a show and enthusiastically quits her job as a private dancer, although the owner laughs at her and predicts she'll be back. She runs to tell James, but finds him with another woman. He, in turns, is disappointed that she forgot all about the show he was preparing for her.
At the casino she is embarrassed when she is asked for personal data and whether she's ever been arrested. The show, however, goes well, and she gets flowers from Crystal's boyfriends, Zack. James, who is waiting outside, tries in vain to get her back: she hardly talks to him.
Crystal approaches Naomi as if she wanted to be a real friend, but next she knows Naomi is sold as a cheap date to an important businessman. She refuses and Zack pretends that they are sorry for what happened. Naomi goes out on a date with Zack: basically, she prostitutes herself to get a promotion and become Crystal's understudy. But now she's beginning to threaten Crystal.
Naomi goes to see James' show. He is now engaged to his girlfriend and partner, who is pregnant of him and whose mother employs him at her grocery store. His show is not going well at all: despite all his efforts, the audience boos him every night.
When she goes back to the casino, she finds out that Crystal has managed to kill her career. During a rehearsal, Naomi pushes Crystal down the stairs and Crystal breaks a few bones: Naomi gets the part of Crystal, but Molly saw her push Crystal. Naomi begs her to attend the party they are throwing for her: she's a star now. Molly walks out on her, but then, as the real friend she is, she shows up at the party. Molly is ecstatic to be introduced to her favorite star, but he beats her and rapes her during the party. They take her to the hospital unconscious. Naomi is determined to call the police, but Zack stops her: he knows her past. Her name is Polly, her father killed her mother and then himself, she became a criminal and a prostitute, and was arrested repeatedly for robberies and drugs. Zack threatens to turn her in if she calls the police.
She decides to take her own revenge. She asks to see the star who raped Molly, and kills him. Then she goes to the hospital to see Crystal, who, suddenly indifferent, gives her a blessing of sorts. But Naomi is no longer interested. She walks to the freeway and hitchhikes a ride to Los Angeles. The very same guy picks her up: she pulls the knife and asks him for her suitcase.

Starship Troopers (1997) is a science-fiction film that adapts to the screen the Robert Heinlein classic. Unfortunately, it also leaves out the best of the book. Violence and gore supplant phylosophical digression. The director is interested in the spectacular battles between aliens and humans, not in the finesse of metaphysics. This is Hollywood (and soap opera) at its worst.

Mankind is under the spell of a 1984-like utopia. Buenos Aires is the city where four kids live and study (yawn). They all want to enroll in the elite troops and thus they get the appropriate training (yawn). Giant bugs attack the Earth and the Earth decides to retaliate. Two of the kids are in the army that is sent to invade their planet. The war develops in the most trivial of manners and eventually the bugs are defeated and naturally the kids are the heroes (yawn).

Hollow Man (2000) is a mediocre horror movie.

Zwartboek/ Black Book (2006), co-written with Gerard Soeteman, is notable for the sustained suspense and the historical reconstruction. It is both a crime thriller and a war movie, as well as a personal and national odyssey. It also contains a Greek tragedy about human brutality and endless betrayal.

The film opens in 1956 in the desert of Israel. A bus takes tourists to visit a kibbutz. Among them are Ronnie, a Dutch woman, and her Canadian husband George. Ronnie recognizes the teacher, whom she calls Ellis but whose real name is Rachel, an old friend from Holland. A slashback shows us Rachel's memories of what happened during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Rachel is a Jewish singer hosted by a big religious Catholic family in their farmhouse. One day while she is outside by the sea flirting with a young man who has a boat a foreign bomber (presumably British) accidentally drops a bomb on the farmhouse and blows it up, presumably killing the entire family. The young man, Rob, takes her to his own farmhouse. She doesn't seem too shocked until a police officer comes incognito to warn them: the Germans found her identity card in the farmhouse but didn't find her body, and the Germans know that there was only one boat around, the boat of the young man. The cop, who works for the resistance, warns them that she will be deported and he will be arrested. He offers to smuggle them into "liberated" territory, territory held by the British and USA. Before leaving, she visits a lawyer, Smaal, as instructed by her parents. He gives her money and jewels to survive one year. He claims that he doesn't know where her parents are hiding. The cop takes Rachel and Rob to a dock where a boat is waiting. Other Jews are waiting there and, among them, Rachel's brother and parents, who have learned of her presence from the cop. On the boat the parents tell her that the lawyer himself found them a hiding place. In the middle of the night Rob realizes that the helmsman is taking them in the wrong direction but it's too late: it was a trap. A German boat starts firing on them and kills everybody except Rachel. Rachel hides in the river and sees the German soldiers, led by a sadistic commander, dump the bodies and steal all the valuables from the dead, including all her money. Next we see her in a coffin, smuggled back into German territory in a hearse by fake undertakers, and we learn that a man found her and call them She is taken to a factory, given a forged identity card as Ellis and employed as a cook. She gladly volunteers when the resistance needs a woman to help retrieve weapons, food and electronics dropped by the British. The first mission is almost her last: German soldiers attack the cell after they retrieve the dropped items. Luckily, Gerben, a legendary shooter, kills them all. Rachel/Ellis boards a train to transport the guns in two suitcases. She avoids a search by sitting next to a German official, Ludwig, and befriending him. It turns out that he is the head of the local Gestapo although he behaves like an old-fashioned gentleman. Gerben's son Tim and two other members of the cell are arrested when their truck gets into an accident to avoid starving children. The truck crashes into a wall, the children rush to steal the food that falls from the truck, but under the food are guns, and the police that arrive to shoo the children away see the guns and arrest the trio. Gerben watches from a window but can't do anything for his son. Aware that Rachel/Ellis met the German commander Ludwig, Gerben asks her to seduce Ludwig. Rachel accepts but first she has sex with cell member Hans, who is a doctor. First, Rachel/Ellis visits the lawyer Smaal and tells him that her family was massacred. The lawyer writes down the name of the cop that took them to the fateful boat. She picks up stamps from the lawyer and brings them to Ludwig, an avid collector. Ludwig invites her to a party. During the party she recognizes the sadistic commander who commanded the German boat and ordered the killing of her family. Ironically, she has volunteered to sing and this sadistic commander, Gunther, is the one who plays the piano. So she has to sing "Lola" for the German officials while the murderer of her family plays the piano. It turns out this Gunther is Ludwig's deputy. After the party she starts undressing for Ludwig and undressing him. Ludwig suspects that she might be a Jew when he realizes that she died her hair blond while in fact she's a brunette; but goes along with the sex. He tells Rachel that he was married with two children but a British bomb hit their bunker and they were killed. He is more humane that the other officers and she honestly pities him. Elsewhere in the building Gunther is torturing and interrogating Tim and the others. Gunther's lover Ronnie, also a Dutch woman, finds Rachel a job working for Gunther. Therefore she sees the report of Tim's interrogation and even sees one of Tim's buddies being dragged into a torture chamber. The lawyer knows that she is there and brings her a gift: a transmitter that Tim was supposed to install in Ludwig's office. She and the other Dutch woman are preparing the party for Hitler's birthday and Rachel finds an opportunity to hide the transmitter inside a painting. Rachel hears that Gunther wants to shoot the three "terrorists" but Ludwig stops him. When Rachel returns to Gerben's cell, they are listening to the transmitter and laughing because Gunther and Ronnie are having sex in that office. The lawyer is also with them. They hear that the erotic scene is interrupted by a man who walks in. Gunther pays this man for corraling Jews and Rachel realizes this is the Dutch cop who pretended to work for the resistance and took them to the boat. She realizes that the German boat wasn't just a coincidence: it was a trap. And that Gunther and the Dutch cop teamed up to offer an escape route to wealthy Jews and to kill them and rob the corpses. The cell members want to kill Gunther and the Dutch cop but Gerben reveals that the lawyer has been negotiating a truce with Ludwig. Now Rachel understands why Ludwig stopped Gunther from shooting Tim and the others. Rachel gets angry at Gerben, accusing him of wanting to save his son Tim and being willing to let more Jews be killed by Gunther. Rachel storms out of the meeting. The only one who agrees with Rachel is Hans, the doctor. He has his own secret plan. He wants to kidnap the Dutch cop and make him confess who is the person who provides him with the names of the wealthy Jews. The kidnapping fails: the Dutch cop almost escapes and they have to kill him (the one who kills him is Theo the pacifist, who is opposed to violence but gets really upset when the Dutch cop curses against God). Gerben gets really angry at Hans for this unauthorized action: the result is that Gunther has sanctioned the execution of 40 hostages in retaliation for the killing of his top agent. When Rachel shows up at Ludwig's home, Ludwig points a gun at her: he has guessed that she works for the resistance and wants her to confess. Rachel tells Ludwig that Gunther is hiding the money and jewels stolen from killed Jews. Ludwig reports the fact to his superior who orders Gunther to open his safe. Inside the safe they only find files. Gunther retaliates by accusing Ludwig of negotiating a truce with the resistance. That is high treason because Hitler has ordered exactly the opposite. Ludwig admits it and tries to reason with his superior, a fanatical general: the Russians are approaching Berlin and it makes no sense to continue killing the partisans who almost certain of victory. Nonetheless, Ludwig is arrested and sentenced to death. Gerben has no choice but to authorize Hans to storm the prison. Rachel demands that Ludwig be freed to: clearly she really loves him. She then returns to the German headquarters for Hitler's party and sings on stage with Gunther backing her. Meanwhile, Hans and his men enter the underground prison wearing German uniforms and free their buddies. But then they are attacked by German soldiers who were hiding and waiting for them: someone had informed Gunther. Hans' men are massacred. Only Hans and Theo manage to escape. Gunther summons Rachel in Ludwig's old office and two soldiers grab her and put hands on her mouth so she can't speak. Gunther has found the transmitter in the painting and knows that Gerben is listening. Gunther pretends that she is the one who betrayed Hans and smashes the transmitter. Now Gerben, Hans and Theo believe that she is a traitor. Gunther then informs Rachel that she will be shot in the morning with Ludwig. Gerben swears to kill her, not knowing that in reality she is about to get shot by the Germans. Rachel is locked in a cell where she can hear tortured prisoners scream. Meanwhile Ronnie is entertaining the German officers like a cheap whore. In reality she is keeping them busy while a soldier loyal to Ludwig walks down to the prison and frees both Ludwig and Rachel. They take refuge in a farmhouse. They hear from the radio that Germany is defeated in Holland. Gunther tries to escape by boat. The boat, however, has a stowaway who stops the engine and then kills Gunther: it is Hans. The liberating troops march in the center of the capital, welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd. Ludwig and Rachel are walking in the street. And suddenly Rachel hears someone calling her name: it's Ronnie who has switched side and now has a new boyfriend, a Canadian soldier. Ludwig and Rachel walk into the lawyer's office. The lawyer and his wife are just about to leave the country. Ludwig and Rachel have reached the conclusion that it was the lawyer who betrayed Hans, and it was the lawyer who provided the Dutch cop with the names of the wealthy Jews. The lawyer however calmly replies that they are wrong and his "black book" can prove it. He is waiting for the police to explain everything. Instead someone walks in and kills the lawyer. Ludwig rushes outside to catch the killer but instead is arrested by men of the resistance who recognize him. They then see Rachel at a window and arrest her too. Ludwig is taken to his old office where he sees that his old superior, the fanatical general, is now collaborating with the Canadian liberators. His superior now accuses Ludwig of having negotiated with a communist, Gerben. The German general demands the right to execute Ludwig. The Canadian commander accepts the request. Ludwig tries to strange his old superior but is stopped by the Canadian soldiers. Ludwig is executed by German soldiers who are given only one bullet for the execution. Meanwhile, Rachel is kept in a prison with other traitors. They are all being humiliated by the captors. When Rachel refuses to sing topless for them, they beat her up and then unload all the shit collected from the cells on her. Luckily for her, Hans shows up. He is now a colonel in the restored army. Hans obtains her release. He takes her to his office, shows her the treasure that he rescued from Gunther's boat and tells her that Ludwig has been executed. She has a hysterical attack and Hans, a doctor, pretends to administers a tranquilliser but then admits that he poisoned her with an overdose of insulin. Hans is being hailed as a hero by the crowd in the streets and leaves her to show up at the balcony. She grabs a bar of chocolate and eats it to avoid dying. Then she walks to the balcony and jumps into the street, surviving the jump and disappearing in the crowd. She somehow informs the Canadian military and asks to be taken to Gerben. Gerben is at the mass grave where his son's body has just been found. When Gerben sees Rachel, whom she still thinks is the cause of his son's death, his reaction is furious, but they force him to listen to her. She shows Gerben the "black book" that details all the Jews who, while in hiding, needed a doctor and were secretly visited by Hans. Those Jews were all found by the Dutch cop a few days later and "smuggled" out of the country never to reappear again: Hans was informing the Dutch cop, the Dutch cop was taking them to the boat, and Gunther was waiting for them with machine guns. Hans has disappeared with Gunther's treasure. Ellis and Gerben, reconciled, returned to their old hideout and find Hans' car. The hearse is gone. They realize that Hans is using the old trick to smuggle himself out. They take Hans' car and, guessing the route he took out of the country, start chasing the hearse. When they reach the hearse, the driver tries to grab a gun but Gerben kills him and starts driving the hearse. Hans is hiding inside the coffin with all the money and jewels and offers them to Rachel. Instead, Rachel methodically tightens the screws of the coffin to make him suffocate alive. They stop the car and wait patiently for Hans to die. They discuss what to do with the treasure. When Hans stops moaning, they remark that there is finally quiet. The flashback ends here.
Back to the first scene, in Israel in 1956 Rachel is happily married with two children. The sign at the entrance of the kibbutz informs us that the kibbutz was built with the that treasure. But her "quiet" doesn't last: in the last scene we hear the sounds of explosions attack and we see military vehicles taking positions: the 1956 war between Israel and the Arabs just started.

Tricked (2012) is a trivial melodrama.

The French-language Elle (2016) is an adaptation of Philippe Djian's short novel "Elle/ Oh" (2012) and Verhoeven indulges in the moral ambiguity of the novel, in all the unexpected, and even exhausting, twists and turns of the plot. There result is a breathless thriller, borderline a horror movie, but also (frequently) a comedy with several comic moments. The focus is on the damaged psyche of the protagonist. She has become immune to betrayal, violence, revenge and morality. She is always composed, no matter what happens to her. Her family consists of a father who is a monster, a grotesquely vain and naive mother, a husband who is a pathetic failed writer, and a son who is even more naive and a failure too. If it expands, the family is likely to add a father-in-law who is younger than her and only interested in her mother's money and a daughter-in-law who is promiscuous and abusive. She is torn between ignoring the madness of life, mocking the ridicule of life, and exploiting the perversion of life. Apart from a disappointing ending, the film is a harrowing portrait of the moral chaos, the perversions and the frustrations of the bourgeoisie, like Luis Bunuel on steroids, coupled with a psychotic thriller a` la Brian DePalma. Of course, much of the credit goes to Djian.

The film opens with a man wearing a black mask and suit raping a woman in her living room. Then he leaves. Michele calmly takes a bath and goes about her chores. Her son Vincent comes to visit her and notes the bruises on her head, but she tells him that she fell from the bike. He found an entry-level job at a fast-food restaurant that cannot pay for the rent of his new apartment. He got his girlfriend Josie pregnant. Michele doesn't like her. Michele thinks Josie is dysfunctional, raised in an art commune. Michele gives him money to pay for three months of rent. That night Michele keeps a hammer next to her bed. The following morning she hires someone to change the locks of the house. It's all business-like. She displays no emotion about the rape. She then watches a scene in a videogame that is similar to the rape scene but complains with the designers that it is not "orgasmic" enough. We realize that she is the boss of a videogame company, cofounded with her friend Anna. One of her employees, Kurt, complains that the videogame is not "playable" because her background is in literature, not games; Michele ignores his argument and admonishes everybody (all men except for Anna) that they are behing schedule. Anna tells Michele that all employees hate her except for Kevin, who loves her. In between work, she visits a hospital to get tested for sexually-transmitted diseases. During her lunch break, her lover calls but Michele finds an excuse not to see him. Then suddenly a woman comes by and drops her lunch tray on her lap and insults both her and her father. Again, she doesn't make a scene and returns to her normal life. Michele then visits her mother and finds her with a sexy young man, Ralf. Michele sarcastically asks how much she paid him. Her mother asks what Michele would do if she remarried. Michele coldly replies that she'd kill her. Her mother retorts that Michele is selfish. Her mother also mentions that her father is getting old and has a parole hearing coming up but Michele doesn't want to hear about him. Back home she briefly remembers the rape (and we see in the flashback how it happened) but then brushes it off by scolding the cat for not attacking the intruder. The rapist, however, texts her. Michele still doesn't call the police but simply buys pepper spray and an axe. Then she drives like a maniac, damaging a car while trying to park in a narrow space. Indifferent to having destroyed the front of that car, she walks into the restaurant where her ex-husband Richard is waiting for her. Richard is a self-defined penniless novelist who has presented a project for a videogame to Michele's company. Anna and her husband Robert also join them. During dinner she casually mentions that she was raped. Richard guesses that she didn't call the police because she wants to have nothing to do with the police. She talks more about his videogame project (which has been denied funding) than about her rape. When they walk out, we realize that the car damaged by Michele is Richard's car. She not only refuses to help him with his project but even leaves him with a broken fender. Vincent takes Michele to see the apartment that he and Josie want to rent, and for which Michele is supposed to pay rent. It is twice bigger than what Michele imagined. Josie claims that they need that much for the baby and gets hysterical, proving Michele's opinion that the girl is not mentally stable. Back at the office, Anna's husband casually walks into her office, lowers the window blinds, lowers his his pants and asks that she masturbates it; which she does, all business-like. So she's also betraying her best friend Anna. Later, when it seems that everybody has already left and she's alone in the office, the rapist texts her implying that he can see what she is wearing. She searches the offices and finds only one person who is still at work: Kurt, the employee who hates her. The following day Michele sees her mother and they discuss the hatred that surrounds Michele's father: his parole hearing is generating news in the press and a TV program is reminding people of the case. It sounds like both women have been subjected to public hatred because of the crime that he committed (like the woman who threw garbage on Michele), a crime for which he is considered a monster. Her mother wants Michele to forgive her father, who is now old and ill, and help with the parole hearing, but Michele has not forgiven. Later at home Michele daydreams that she would defend herself from the masked rapist and even kill him. The merciless Michele is however moved when her cat catches a bird. She tries to save the bird. Later she watches on TV a documentary about the crime committed 39 years earlier by her father. Her father was a serial killer and the documentary ends asking what role his daughter, Michele, played. In the evening she sees a suspicious car parked under her house. She grabs her axe and the pepper spray and walks outside. She smashes the window of the car and sprays the man. It's Richard, who, worried about her, had decided to mount guard in front of her house. She has to wash the eyes of poor Richard in pain. While he recovers, they chat. He borrowed the car from a student, Helene, who is fond of one of his books. Michele sounds jealous and, in fact, the following day she phones Vincent to ask about this Helene. The phone call is interrupted when Michele sees an obscene video pop up on her computer: it's a videogame-style recreation of her rape. And then she realizes that everybody in the office is seeing the same video pop up on their computers. Anna tells her that it must come from someone who works there. Michele again refuses to call the police. Michele is so jealous of Vincent's student Helene that she searches the Internet until she finds her photo and then barges in on a yoga class that Helene is teaching in order to meet her in person and invite her to a Christmas dinner. On the way out Michele gets a frantic call from her son Vincent that Josie is at the hospital giving birth. Both Michele and Richard arrive to witness the event but the newborn is... black. Clearly not Vincent's child. Vincent's best friend Omar, who is black, is standing behind them. Josie doesn't feel embarrassed at all: she stares at Michele with a defiant look. When she returns home, she finds cops searching the streets: her neighbor Patrick spotted a prowler wearing a mask and hiding in the bushes by her house and he called the police. At work there is still tension between her and Kurt. Michele asks her employee Kevin, who is known for owning gungs, to teach her how to shoot. She also asks Kevin to hack into the computers of the whole staff to find out who created the rape video. It's illegal to do so, but she promises it will be a secret and offers him a significant bonus. One day at home she watches on binoculars the neighbor Patrick and masturbates. She then walks across the street to his house, where Patrick and his wife are setting up a Nativity garden, and invites them to her Christmas dinner. At the Christmas dinner Michele puts together her mother and her lover Ralf, Anna and Robert, Richard, Vincent and Helene, Josie with the baby Patrick and his wife Rebecca (who asks to pray before starting dinner). Michele starts touching Patrick erotically under the table and Patrick does not reject the attention. Robert notices that she is flirting with Patrick. Michele's mother announces that she and the much younger Ralf got engaged, and Michele laughs out loud. Patrick's wife Rebecca, clearly a devout Catholic, turns on the TV to watch the mass celebrated by the pope in Rome while Michele jokes about her father's crime (he killed 27 humans, 6 dogs, 2 cats). She tells him what she was doing when someone took the picture of her that is shown in the documentary: she, a half-naked child, was helping her father burn the evidence. Patrick is embarrassed. Insulted again by Michele, her mother suffers a stroke and collapses. On the ambulance, she begs Michele to go and see her ill father. Michele suspects that her mother is faking the stroke until a doctor tells her that there's even a chance her mother will not survive it. Her best friend and business partner Anna sleeps over to keep her company, while her husband Robert sleeps in another room. As they fall asleep, Anna reminds Michele when they tried to have lesbian sex. In the morning Anna leaves early and Robert, alone with Michele, demands to know why she ignores him. She snaps and tells him that she doesn't want to have sex with him anymore (but we know that it's not because of loyalty to Anna but because she's obsessed with someone else). Michelle visits her mother at the hospital. Her mother is in a coma but Michele nonetheless argues with her, accusing her of treachery. Whether a coincidence or a reaction, her mother suffers a heart attack and dies. Michele returns home late at night, hardly upset, and finds that the stalker was in her home and masturbated on her bed. Even that doesn't seem to upset her too much. Her mother is cremated and she takes Vincent, Josie, Richard, Anna and Robert to a park where she plans to spread her ashes. The ceremony is ruined when Michele loses her patience seeing how Josie treats Vincent and shouts in Vincent's face what everybody can see for themselves: Vincent is not the father of the baby. Michele casually drops the ashes and everybody goes home. When a strong wind hits the city, Patrick rushes to help Michele secure the numerous windows of her home. It's an excuse to have sex with her but then at the last moment he runs away, leaving her frustrated. At work she discovers the employee who created the rape video: Kevin himself, who, infatuated, has a whole bunch of photos and videos about her. She confronts him calmly, almost amused. She asks him to pull down his pants so she can check his penis: the rapist was circumcised, and Kevin is not. Michele loses interest in the episode and walks away. She doesn't even fire Kevin. However, when she gets home that evening, she is attacked by the masked rapist, but this time she wounds him with a pair of scissors and unmasks him: it's Patrick. She kicks him out. Again, she doesn't call the police. In the morning she sees him walk out dressed for work and they merely exchange a cold look. She heards on the news that her father has been denied parole. She reacts with expletives against her father. Finally, she drives to the prison to visit him. She tells the warden she has come to spit on her father's face. The warden tells her that her father hanged himself in the cell hours after being informed that she was coming to visit. On the way back, while driving through a forest, she crashes the car because an animal jumps across the street. She can't even get out of the car. She calls Anna and Richard but they don't pick up. So she calls Patrick and he comes. Patrick pulls her own of the car and drives her home. Patrick bandages her wounded thigh. She asks him why he raped her and he replies that it was necessary. Walking on crutches, Michele enters her mother's apartment, which now belongs to her, and finds Ralf already in bed with another (much younger) woman. Ralf insults her because of her father's crimes. Michele simply tells him that the apartment is for sale and he has to move out. Later she has sex with Anna's husband Robert at Anna's place. Back home she finds Vincent: Josie kicked him out after Vincent quit his job. Michele is shocked enough that he would quit his job, but on top of that he has also stolen Josie's baby, whom he insists on calling his child. Not surprisingly, Josie bangs at the door and demands the baby. Vincent moves in with her. They meet Patrick at a supermarket. He is alone after Rebecca left for a Catholic pilgrimage and invites them over for dinner. Vincent gets drunk and falls asleep. Patrick takes Michele to the basement and rapes her again, despite the fact that she is now willing. He simply says that it has to feel like a rape. At work Michele watches the final product and publicly congratulates Kurt, healing their rift. Anna tells Michele that she suspects her husband Robert has a lover. A stone-faced Michele doesn't confess that she is the lover. At the launch party for the videogame Michele invites Patrick, Richard and Robert Richard has broken up with Helene after they found out that the book she's fond of was written not by Richard but by another writer with the same last name as Richard's. Michele, feeling bad for him, introduces Richard to Kurt and ask that they work together on Richard's project that was rejected. In the middle of the party a stone-faced Michele confesses to Anna that she's the lover of her husband, but that it's over, and then leaves the petrified Anna and asks Patrick to drive her home. In the car she tells Patrick that she'll report the rape to the police. She seems to have suddenly realized that she has a responsibility towards Patrick's wife and towards possibly other victims of Patrick's perversion. When she walks out of the car, Patrick is tempted to run her over. She leaves the gate unlocked, which could be either an invitation or a provocation Patrick gets his mask on, walks in and assaults her. She resists and he beats her violently. (We don't know whether this is part of their sadomaso game or a real awakening of Michele). Vincent arrives and hits him on the head with a heavy object and kills him. This time they call the police. Michele denies knowing that the masked aggressor was Patrick. Some time later Michele sees Patrick's wife Rebecca moving out. Rebecca is not angry at all with Michele. In fact, she thanks Michele for satisfying Patrick's needs, which means that she knew something of their love affair. Michele has changed. Vincent has moved back with Josie and Michele even treats Josie like a daughter now. Anna finds Michele at the cemetery, placing flowers on her mother's niche, next to the niche of her father which is vandalized with graffitis. Anna kicked out Robert. Michele confesses that she simply took advantage of Robert when she wanted sex. Anna seems to accept this pathetic excuse and remarks that now they are both alone and maybe they should move in together.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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