Feb 7, 2008

The Fourth Man


The Fourth Man is a very odd film from Paul Verhoeven. It is by far his darkest and most artistic. The Fourth Man would also be Verhoeven’s last Dutch film(until the recent Black Book). After viewing all of Verhoeven’s earlier films, it is easy to see his progression as a director. Although I am a huge fan of Robocop I wonder where his directing career would have went if he had stayed in his own country.

In the beginning of the film(after a montage of a spider taking the life of a fly on a crucifix), we meet the films protagonist who forget to wear his pants. He is a gay alcoholic writer with a distaste for most things. For some reason he ends up sleeping with a Dutch Femme Fatale and freeloads off of her for a while. In one odd scene, the writer covers his lovers breasts and pretends she's a little boy. The writer eventually becomes obsessed with the women’s German boyfriend(in which he has only seen pictures of). This is truly a bizarre love triangle.


I have never thought of Paul Verhoeven as someone that had an interest in surrealism. Inspired by the films catholic themes, the writer is often hallucinates death and other scenes of misery. The Fourth Man even features a scene in which he dreams his penis gets cut off with scissors. These constant visions add a whole other element to the film(and to the writer’s religious schizophrenia).

The Fourth Man also succeeds in capturing the loneliness and depressive isolation of man. The writer doesn’t seem like he can do anything. Constantly hallucinating, committing acts of sin, and conspiring. At the very least he has fallen out of the loop of life. Paul Verhoeven always gives off the vibe of a very jolly fellow. I suspect he may be acting. Verhoeven has stated the violence in the film was inspired by the German and American occupation of Holland during World War 2. I doubt he had a happy childhood.


I hate the genre and genre title “psychological thriller.” It is a title that was invented to make certain Hollywood films sound legit is regards to intellectual merit. The Fourth Man is actually deserving of the title “psychological thriller.” The film offers the viewer something to think about at the end. It isn’t wrapped up in a neat little package at the end like Joel Schumacher’s The Number 23 or plagiarist M. Night Shayamalan’s The Sixth Sense.

Basic Instinct is a very LOOSE remake of The Fourth Man. It is amazing how a director can take a European art film and turn it into American sleaze(Basic Instinct is still a decent flick). Americans couldn’t handle the gay element of The Fourth Man so Basic Instinct had to replace it with lipsticks lesbians. Michael Douglas shouldn’t be filmed in any sexual situation.


-Ty E

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