the-fourth-man-de-vierde-man-nov-5thThis thriller bursts onto the screen, with startling imagery, to convey the confusion of the protagonist Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbe), a gay alcoholic novelist whose psychosis is at the centre of the film’s narrative. He is drawn into a relationship with thrice widowed Christine Halsslag, whose motives are either mysterious or murderous. A “hot, florid, outrageously funny film” (Time Out) – prepare to be shocked. Verhoeven went on to make Robocop, Basic Instinct and The Black Book. (Cert 18)
Dir: Paul Verhoeven 98 mins Netherlands 1983

Programme Notes

Thursday, 5th November 2009

THE FOURTH MAN (De Vierde Man)

Netherlands 1983 98 minutes Cert 15

We screened Verhoeven’s The Black Book some eighteen months ago. Made in 2006, it was his first Dutch production since tonight’s film, made 23 years earlier. In between, he made nine movies, some of which members may have heard of, including Robocop, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers. The Black Book was clearly the work of a man with little concern for any of his Dutch audience’s cherished beliefs in WW2 resistance myths. So, pacy, hi-energy, entertaining movies combined with a challenge to the viewer, then?

Novelist Gerard Reve – the name happens also to be that of the author of the novel on which the film is based – seduces (definitely not quite the right word) a reader (that film again – now there’s a contrast!), but his main sexual appetite is for her boyfriend. Her name, Christine Halsslag, translates as “blow to the neck”. This may or may not be germane to the plot, but she certainly has an interesting marital record. The Time Out Film Guide states: “A hot, florid, outrageously funny film that nevertheless plays at a dreamy, trance-like pace, this earned Verhoeven his best ever notices – an anomaly he attributes to its slow, arty camera moves”.

“The theme of the spider and the web was written by Gerard Soeteman but for me it was more like what Bergman said, that God is a spider. Of course, a spider is on the web, but it’s also on the crucifix, isn’t it? He’s also on Jesus – he walks over Jesus’ arms and legs and all that stuff and sits on his head. It’s a dual conception of the world being governed by two forces: Basically there’s the good force that people call God, and the bad force that you could call Satan. That dualist point of view is thousands and thousands of years old. To a certain degree, it’s still true. Even Christianity has not succeeded at explaining why there is so much misery and violence in the world, if there’s a good God. It can only be if there’s an opposing force that is as bad as God is good. In fact, there’s more evidence of Satanic rule in the world, especially if you look at the American government at this moment.” (Verhoeven, interviewed in 2007 by James Hughes – ).

Gerard Reve – Jeroen Krabbé
Christine Halsslag – Renée Soutendijk
Herman – Thom Hoffman
Ria – Geert de Jong
Dr. de Vries – Dolf de Vries
Begrafenisondernemer – Hans Veerman

Director – Paul Verhoeven
Screenplay – Gerard Soeteman, from the novel by: Gerard Reve
Cinematography – Jan de Bont
Producer – Rob Houwer
Original Music – Loek Dikker



“Brilliantly surreal but leaving me up in the air at the end.”

“Great film. I really loved the silly dreams, etc.”

“Stylish and witty, ultimately meaningless!”

“I didn’t know the Dutch had it in them! Splendid nonsense, done well.”

“A solid film, with an engaging tale that was played out in a straightforward manner.”

“Quite alternative and a bit bizarre. (It was a little cold in the theatre for the first half of the film.)”

“What a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”

“A slow start but very funny.”

“I somehow prefer the British sense of humour. Catholics have a [well-developed] sense of guilt!

“So this is what Catholicism does to you!”

“Fun in a rather gruesome way. A sort of cross between Don’t Look Now and Dead of Night. I think I preferred those (two films)!”

“Was this intended to be a very black comedy?”

“Started well but faded a bit.”

“A nice idea but not engaging enough.”

“Very good acting but I didn’t know what to make of it!”

“Self-indulgent tripe!”

“Pretty daft, I thought!”

“So bad it was good – but only at the end.”

“Ridiculous and horrible”

“The worst film I have seen at ABCD. Self-consciously off-the-wall but clunkingly predictable. I nearly gave it my first ever E!”

“No! No!”


A:4, B:22, C:17, D:2, E:2 to give 63%