DVD Review: Black Book

Movie •••½ Picture •••½ Sound •••• Extras •••

It's not often that, in the DVD extras for a brooding suspense thriller, you get a production featurette in a foreign language. But the one here is in Dutch, with English subtitles, just like the movie itself. Watching each, I was struck by the elegance and dignity of the actors, both in and out of character. Carice van Houton, who plays a Jewish spy for the Dutch resistance in World War II, even brings to mind the beauty and poise of Marlene Dietrich or Ingrid Bergman - which doesn't happen too often with our own modern American stars.

Black Book's transfer is generally excellent. In the crisp and clean daytime shots, I could almost feel the texture of the actors' costumes and hair. And the dust stirred up by a bus made me want to cough. But in night scenes, although close-ups are clear, the picture isn't as defined when the camera pulls back. The 5.1-channel mix is quite intricate and subtle, wrapping you in a cocoon of sounds ranging from murmurs to thunderous noises. My only complaint is that the frequency range seems a bit chopped off at the top.

Outside of the featurette, there's just a commentary by co-writer/director Paul Verhoeven (also in Dutch and subtitled), who shares his well-informed if somewhat conceited ideas.

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