Thursday, November 27, 2014

703. De vierde man/The Fourth Man (1983)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Gerard Soeteman, from novel by Gerard Reve
Main Cast: Jeroen Krabbe, Renee Soutendijk, Thom Hoffman, Dolf de Vries
Click here to view the trailer


T minus about two hours before I brave the roaring crowds of the Black Friday sales. Truth be told, it's one of the most boring days of the year for a retail man, as most of the day will consist of me just standing around, waiting for the shoppers to arrive. A blessing and a curse and altogether, something I'd rather just skip. Anyway, after writing the Soldier of Orange review last night, I went on to stay up longer than I have in months and watch The Fourth Man, wrapping up the three film salute to Paul Verhoeven.

I forgot to mention the fantastic cinematography that was on display in The Fourth Man, so I'll do it in the form of picture captions. Here is one of Gerard's many premonitions, as he dreams about a man covered in blood and missing an eye rising up out of the ocean.

The film stars Jeroen Krabbe as Gerard Reve, a bisexual, alcoholic novelist who travels out of Amsterdam to deliver a lecture, at a university. Upon arriving, Reve meets Christine Halslag (Soutendijk), who dawns a red dress & a video camera and seduces Reve all the way back to her apartment, which doubles as a hair salon. It's clear at this point that Reve is dependent on alcohol to keep him functioning and it's also clear that Reve has premonitions about the future, as he sees odd signs everywhere - envisioning blood, spiders and even the Virgin Mary - which mostly come in his dreams. Anyway, the two engage in a night of passion and when they awake the next day and Gerard makes note of his intentions to return to Amsterdam, Christine is clearly upset, wanting him to stay. Gerard refuses, that is until he sees a picture of Christine's other boy toy Herman, whom he becomes incredibly attracted to in an instant, gawking at his picture as if it were a Marilyn Monroe pinup. He tells Christine he will stay and subsequently convinces her to have Herman visit, so that he can meet the boy. Christine agrees, leaving Gerard for a period of time, while she goes and picks him up. During her absence Gerard discovers that Christine has been married three times previous as opposed to the one time previous that she's told him about. During a drunken spell, he wonders why Christine has lied to him about this and begins to develop conspiracy theories about her past, all the while trying to write his next great novel and dealing with the premonitions.


I actually screen grabbed this one right off the copy of the movie that I watched, because I loved the shot so much. Seriously, I am a sucker for a row of trees on film! (See "The Third Man")

Love, love, love Verhoeven's use of mirrors, both here and in Turkish Delight. It's no wonder the guy loves throwing in sex scenes as he knows just how to film them to perfection.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but The Fourth Man also showed me what a fine line a film can walk between being very good and being very bad. There were certain things in here that bordered on being too silly, but just slipped by and worked well. I loved the acting of Jeroen Krabbe, yet a less skilled actor could have and definitely would have dragged down the whole production. I'd say the same thing for Renee Soutendijk, however, I wouldn't laud her acting skill so much as I'd laud her looks - she looked absolutely fantastic, encompassing sexy and scary and using both looks to the film's advantage. In a less skilled director's hands the film probably would have flopped and may have been interpreted with more horror and come off as a gore fest, while Verhoeven mixed horror and thriller well, keeping us attached to the characters and wondering about the mystery of the whole thing and what all the symbols would turn out to mean. This is a film that I've looked forward to for a very long time and one that I may have subconsciously saved for a rainy day, knowing I'd like it. Don't ask me how I knew (perhaps THE BOOK describing it as "Hitchcock like" may have helped, although now that I've seen it, I'd mostly disagree with that likening). I intentionally scheduled the Verhoeven films here, as I needed something to spice up the season and sort of relied on The Fourth Man to sort of get me out of a slump. Little did I know that it would actually be Turkish Delight that would be the slump buster.

The use of the color red is prominent, from Christine's dress the buckets of blood that were used. Here Gerard walks down a street covered in rose petals. Quite the visual!

Okay, so how did Gerard know that all of Christine's husbands were killed? The home movies he watched didn't show their deaths and the only one that Christine actually discussed with him was the drowning. Okay, I guess she also said that Josef (was that his name, I know it started with a "J") died in a tragic accident and then later said that her husband died drowning, so you could technically say he knew that two had died. But how did he know that the third was dead and that Christine didn't just divorce him? Was this him simply using his premonitions and the vision of seeing three carcasses dripping blood as a way of knowing that three of her previous beau's were no more? So clearly there may be a few plot holes, but the whole atmosphere of the movie is both scary and sexy and it's really hard to discount the effects of this one. I'd recommend this, but go in cautious, as it may not be for everyone and could easily be interpreted as silly. On the bright side, if you're one who likes dissecting your movies, ripping them apart, turning them over and over and trying to theorize, this one's for you, plus it has a pretty good plot and fine acting from it's main man. Easy thumbs up from me.

RATING: 7.5/10  I'd say '7.5' leaning more toward '7' than toward '8', but still a fine film and another candidate from the TOP 20, which is quickly approaching.


November 27, 2014  11:49am
Happy Thanksgiving!

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