A remarkably assured first feature, charting the real-life resistance activities of the (for the Dutch) almost legendary World War II heroine Hannie Schaft. It paints a detailed, lucid portrait of a respectable woman abandoning her legal studies and overcoming qualms to become an efficient killer, hunted by the occupant Nazis and increasingly at odds with the acquiescent Dutch authorities. Avoiding 'aren't Nazis slimy' clichés, Verbong constructs a resonant context in which his courageous heroine discovers the personally tragic consequences of her militant choice. If the film is finally too restrained to achieve the emotional power of its acknowledged models (Melville's L'Armée des Ombres, Bertolucci's The Conformist), the precise, exquisite images - in desaturated sepia colours - and strong performances nevertheless convey both honesty and intelligence: it's engrossing, sensitive, and despite the period setting, totally relevant.
Cast and crew
Ben Verbong, Pieter de Vos