De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man) (The 4th Man) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man) (The 4th Man) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 19, 2016
The symbolism is made a bit too obvious (especially in a rather expository third act), but still it is hard to resist this stylish, sensual and technically splendid thriller that makes some very nice use of colors and is always intriguing in the way it blends reality and imagination.
July 2, 2016
One of those films, you simply NEED to see.
June 22, 2016
Paul Verhoeven is a provocateur who crosses the line in a way that deliberately reinforces stereotypes and controverts "politically correct" notions. For example, his new film (Elle, 2016) is being called a "rape comedy" - but I don't think I will have the stomach for it. Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers are what they are. So, it took me a while before I decided to watch this earlier film (in Dutch) but I took a chance because it was described as Hitchcockian (oh that much maligned adjective). In essence, the film works as a character study of an alcoholic writer who has a rich fantasy life that intrudes on reality, such that we don't know whether we are watching "true" events or some anxious fabrication until the fantasy or dream sequence passes. So, when Gerard meets the young woman who has had three prior husbands die in an accident, we don't know whether this paranoia about becoming her fourth victim is valid or not (particularly because he is bisexual and really more interested in her current beau than her). In the end however, Gerard's obsessions and visions, which have always had a religious flavour (cue symbolism, I guess), turn out to be more than what they seemed - but one can still doubt whether the interpretation is a creation of fiction. Verhoeven wants to have it all ways and, guys, watch out for the scissors.
May 18, 2014
The script gives out about 20 minutes before the end but it's still great dirty fun.
September 8, 2013
It's a commonly held belief that Paul Verhoeven's Dutch language work is better than his later Hollywood efforts. It's certainly easy to misconstrue things in this regard, if we take Showgirls or Hollow Man as a yardstick against the likes of Spetters and Soldier of Orange. But perhaps the most illuminating comparison is with The Fourth Man, a 'spiritual prequel' to Basic Instinct which edges out over its State-side companion in almost every way.

Mark Kermode in his review of Black Book described The Fourth Man as "a trial run for Basic Instinct", and he wasn't far wide of the mark. Both films, loosely speaking, have the same plot: a maverick male protagonist falls in love with a dangerous woman, whom it transpires is a serial murderer of the people she loves. Both the femme fatales in question are blonde, both employ sharp objects (whether scissors or an ice pick), and both exhibit sociopathic tendencies. There are some differences - the man and woman's occupation, the setting, the overall style - but you could connect the character arcs together without much hassle.

Both films are also discernably made by the same man. They are indulgent, upfront if not celebratory of nudity, unabashed about their subject matter and have some degree of religious subtext or symbolism. The crucial difference, however, is one of emphasis. Basic Instinct emphasises the teasing, destructive nature of its heroine: it's centrally an erotic thriller, with the man being unable to help himself against strong feminine wiles. The Fourth Man, on the other hand, emphasises the mental disintegration of its male protagonist. It's a psychological horror in the vein of Angel Heart, with one foot in the history of film noir.

Both of the film's main protagonists are deeply rooted in film noir and by extension pulp fiction. Gerard Reve is a trashy novelist, unkempt in appearance and with an unhealthy taste for drink. His hair is greasy, his clothing shabby and he doesn't really care what anybody thinks of him so long as he can do his job. He serves as the unreliable narrator in the absence of a detective character, while Christine is our femme fatale, equal parts victim and villain, and completely irresistible to our hero.

But rather than just lean on these archetypes for the sake of pulpy fun, Verhoeven looks at these conventions in a more advanced and naturalistic way. He could just set up Reve as an unreliable narrator with a grim voiceover and lots of slow shots of him drinking, writing and moping on trains. Instead we get Reve's lecture, in which he spins his audience a yarn and then reveals how much is real and how much is his fabrication. His wry comment that he "lies the truth" sets up both his archetype and much of the film's ambiguity, and all the while the story feels distinctive.

Having given us this ambiguity, Verhoeven launches into a full-blown examination of religious paranoia. When interviewed in 2011, he argued that Christian belief and practice has a tendency to resemble black magic and the occult. Christians, he argued, were so obsessed with "scrambling to rationalise their chaotic existence" that their behaviour was akin to schizophrenia, and he wanted to play with the idea of religion being grounded in violence (e.g. the crucifixion).

Whether you agree with Verhoeven's viewpoint or not (I'm firmly in the latter camp), the notion does make for a very effective thriller. It raises all manner of interesting questions about fate, predestination, evil and temptation, while also having fun playing with familiar symbols and indulging in a little surrealism. The comparison with Angel Heart is a fitting one, since both are unapologetic in their heady and intoxicating imagery, with theological accuracy taking a back seat to ambiguity and primal fear.

First and foremost, the film plays with the old idea of religion being a coping mechanism for people who fear death. Like Gene Hackman's character in The Conversation, Reve is a lapsed Catholic who clings onto certain symbols and images (mainly the Virgin Mary) out of morbid fear for his wellbeing and sanity. He is perfectly happy to drink, swear, and sleep with men and women without a second thought, but the second that his life is threatened, he becomes a quivering wreck. His faith is being crushed or overshadowed by a more powerful evil, slowly covering everything, like the spider's web on the crucifix in the opening shot.

Because Reve's mindset is so carefree and unstable, The Fourth Man gives us very little to ground us in one particularly version of events. Reve's visions are incredibly vivid and surreal, but there is no break in visual aesthetic to differentiate a dream from reality, like in Spellbound or The Conversation. Not only can we not trust our protagonist, but we cannot rely on our own senses to guide us, and that makes the experience all the more terrifying.

This also allows the film to succeed where Basic Instinct ultimately fell short, in making its female antagonist genuinely ambiguous. There was never really any doubt that Catherine Tramell was the killer; all her more sensitive scenes and the implication of Beth were just an ineffective smokescreen.

Here, on the other hand, we find ourselves genuinely in doubt about Christine. Is she a ruthless murderess, or a broken victim? The film is replete with recurring images which suggest her wicked nature - spiders being the most effective example - and yet we find ourselves dismissing them as our own paranoia even as evil surrounds us. Even when Reve discovers the tapes of her other husbands, in a gender reversal of Peeping Tom, we cannot completely trust Reve and therefore remain in two minds.

One of the big themes of The Fourth Man is predestination. Verhoeven has a great deal of fun foreshadowing the deaths of his characters, the most gruesome being Herman's death in the car accident. There's a fair amount of graphic violence, including a scene involving scissors which gives Hard Candy a run for its money. But Verhoeven does do the hard work in giving the violence meaning, driving home the abiding threat of Christine and making us question to what extent such events were unavoidable.

Much like Don't Look Now (another film that explored predestination), The Fourth Man's colour palette is dominated by red. Jan de Bont's directorial career may have left a lot to be desired, but he remains one of the best cinematographers ever to come out of continental Europe. The film is brilliantly shot with a huge variety of shades and textures being captured, from the smooth sheen of Christine's lipstick to the thick matte blood on the victims' bodies.

There are a couple of problems with The Fourth Man. It is deeply contrived, which is in one sense inevitable: there is so much predestination and foreshadowing that it will take a lot of suspension of disbelief for the plot to work without question. There is also the issue of animal cruelty regarding the opening credits, which feature a spider crawling along a web and devouring flies. Assuming that the spider was trained in some way, to achieve the size and shape of web needed for a given shot, it is rather uncomfortable to watch a real-life killing on screen.

The Fourth Man is a gripping and thought-provoking thriller which finds Verhoeven in sound mind while having a lot of fun. Its vivid cinematography and nuanced examination of ideas are balanced by a witty script and great performances by Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk. Verhoeven's best work remains Soldier of Orange, but this is still a very fine film, which offers brains on top of its frequent flesh.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2013
It's a commonly held belief that Paul Verhoeven's Dutch language work is better than his later Hollywood efforts. It's certainly easy to misconstrue things in this regard, if we take Showgirls or Hollow Man as a yardstick against the likes of Spetters and Soldier of Orange. But perhaps the most illuminating comparison is with The Fourth Man, a 'spiritual prequel' to Basic Instinct which edges out over its State-side companion in almost every way.

Mark Kermode in his review of Black Book described The Fourth Man as "a trial run for Basic Instinct", and he wasn't far wide of the mark. Both films, loosely speaking, have the same plot: a maverick male protagonist falls in love with a dangerous woman, whom it transpires is a serial murderer of the people she loves. Both the femme fatales in question are blonde, both employ sharp objects (whether scissors or an ice pick), and both exhibit sociopathic tendencies. There are some differences - the man and woman's occupation, the setting, the overall style - but you could connect the character arcs together without much hassle.

Both films are also discernably made by the same man. They are indulgent, upfront if not celebratory of nudity, unabashed about their subject matter and have some degree of religious subtext or symbolism. The crucial difference, however, is one of emphasis. Basic Instinct emphasises the teasing, destructive nature of its heroine: it's centrally an erotic thriller, with the man being unable to help himself against strong feminine wiles. The Fourth Man, on the other hand, emphasises the mental disintegration of its male protagonist. It's a psychological horror in the vein of Angel Heart, with one foot in the history of film noir.

Both of the film's main protagonists are deeply rooted in film noir and by extension pulp fiction. Gerard Reve is a trashy novelist, unkempt in appearance and with an unhealthy taste for drink. His hair is greasy, his clothing shabby and he doesn't really care what anybody thinks of him so long as he can do his job. He serves as the unreliable narrator in the absence of a detective character, while Christine is our femme fatale, equal parts victim and villain, and completely irresistible to our hero.

But rather than just lean on these archetypes for the sake of pulpy fun, Verhoeven looks at these conventions in a more advanced and naturalistic way. He could just set up Reve as an unreliable narrator with a grim voiceover and lots of slow shots of him drinking, writing and moping on trains. Instead we get Reve's lecture, in which he spins his audience a yarn and then reveals how much is real and how much is his fabrication. His wry comment that he "lies the truth" sets up both his archetype and much of the film's ambiguity, and all the while the story feels distinctive.

Having given us this ambiguity, Verhoeven launches into a full-blown examination of religious paranoia. When interviewed in 2011, he argued that Christian belief and practice has a tendency to resemble black magic and the occult. Christians, he argued, were so obsessed with "scrambling to rationalise their chaotic existence" that their behaviour was akin to schizophrenia, and he wanted to play with the idea of religion being grounded in violence (e.g. the crucifixion).

Whether you agree with Verhoeven's viewpoint or not (I'm firmly in the latter camp), the notion does make for a very effective thriller. It raises all manner of interesting questions about fate, predestination, evil and temptation, while also having fun playing with familiar symbols and indulging in a little surrealism. The comparison with Angel Heart is a fitting one, since both are unapologetic in their heady and intoxicating imagery, with theological accuracy taking a back seat to ambiguity and primal fear.

First and foremost, the film plays with the old idea of religion being a coping mechanism for people who fear death. Like Gene Hackman's character in The Conversation, Reve is a lapsed Catholic who clings onto certain symbols and images (mainly the Virgin Mary) out of morbid fear for his wellbeing and sanity. He is perfectly happy to drink, swear, and sleep with men and women without a second thought, but the second that his life is threatened, he becomes a quivering wreck. His faith is being crushed or overshadowed by a more powerful evil, slowly covering everything, like the spider's web on the crucifix in the opening shot.

Because Reve's mindset is so carefree and unstable, The Fourth Man gives us very little to ground us in one particularly version of events. Reve's visions are incredibly vivid and surreal, but there is no break in visual aesthetic to differentiate a dream from reality, like in Spellbound or The Conversation. Not only can we not trust our protagonist, but we cannot rely on our own senses to guide us, and that makes the experience all the more terrifying.

This also allows the film to succeed where Basic Instinct ultimately fell short, in making its female antagonist genuinely ambiguous. There was never really any doubt that Catherine Tramell was the killer; all her more sensitive scenes and the implication of Beth were just an ineffective smokescreen.

Here, on the other hand, we find ourselves genuinely in doubt about Christine. Is she a ruthless murderess, or a broken victim? The film is replete with recurring images which suggest her wicked nature - spiders being the most effective example - and yet we find ourselves dismissing them as our own paranoia even as evil surrounds us. Even when Reve discovers the tapes of her other husbands, in a gender reversal of Peeping Tom, we cannot completely trust Reve and therefore remain in two minds.

One of the big themes of The Fourth Man is predestination. Verhoeven has a great deal of fun foreshadowing the deaths of his characters, the most gruesome being Herman's death in the car accident. There's a fair amount of graphic violence, including a scene involving scissors which gives Hard Candy a run for its money. But Verhoeven does do the hard work in giving the violence meaning, driving home the abiding threat of Christine and making us question to what extent such events were unavoidable.

Much like Don't Look Now (another film that explored predestination), The Fourth Man's colour palette is dominated by red. Jan de Bont's directorial career may have left a lot to be desired, but he remains one of the best cinematographers ever to come out of continental Europe. The film is brilliantly shot with a huge variety of shades and textures being captured, from the smooth sheen of Christine's lipstick to the thick matte blood on the victims' bodies.

There are a couple of problems with The Fourth Man. It is deeply contrived, which is in one sense inevitable: there is so much predestination and foreshadowing that it will take a lot of suspension of disbelief for the plot to work without question. There is also the issue of animal cruelty regarding the opening credits, which feature a spider crawling along a web and devouring flies. Assuming that the spider was trained in some way, to achieve the size and shape of web needed for a given shot, it is rather uncomfortable to watch a real-life killing on screen.

The Fourth Man is a gripping and thought-provoking thriller which finds Verhoeven in sound mind while having a lot of fun. Its vivid cinematography and nuanced examination of ideas are balanced by a witty script and great performances by Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk. Verhoeven's best work remains Soldier of Orange, but this is still a very fine film, which offers brains on top of its frequent flesh.
July 20, 2013
Verhoeven goes De Palma!
½ July 11, 2013
Verhoeven's The Fourth Man is actually a very cool flick. It's interesting how overt symbolism of the plot hides the symbolism of the theme. Very clever. RECOMMENDED.
March 29, 2013
An early film by Paul Verhoeven. I find the man's films often too obnoxious for my tastes, but at least he never bores me. This was an exception to that general rule.
½ November 3, 2012
A prime Verhoeven film, totally allegoric.
July 23, 2012
Sountendjik plays it so cool that it's flawless, but in an uninteresting way. The beginning is really great, but there doesn't seem to be a single shocking revelation in the whole film, everything is revealed in the first half. And the ending is overly hurried. While the film looks awesome and there is pretty good dialogue, it just loses tension by the time it should really get going. One of those flicks that promise loads but deliver a bit too little. Baybe as an 80's kid I would be all over it.
July 17, 2012
Pre-Basic Instinct Basic Instinct, very interesting
June 20, 2012
After Spetters (1980) nearly finished his career in Holland, Paul Verhoeven almost went to Hollywood, he was offered Return of the Jedi (1983) as well as others, and Steven Spielberg put a good word in for him. But, he did one more Dutch film, based on a 1981 novel by Gerard Reve. It's a lurid, explicit film, nearly as bad as the stuff Verhoeven did in Spetters, but it's very good. Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbà (C)), is an alcoholic, bisexual and depressive novelist who is looking for a big break, but he always seems to have visions of bad things that will happen, he goes on a trip from Amsterdam to give a lecture at the Vlissingen Literary Society. It's there he meets the society's attractive treasurer, Christine Halslag (Renà (C)e Soutendijk), and Gerard begins a relationship with Christine. But, he soon learns that she has had 3 previous husbands, all of whom have been killed, and that Christine has been branded as a witch, a black widow, Delilah and the Devil. This scares Gerard, and after he has visions of the Virgin Mary showing he's next, he backs off, but when Christine starts seeing Gerard's friend Herman (Thom Hoffman), Gerard fears for his safety. The Fourth Man has touches and flourishes of Hitchcock all over the place, but it's got Verhoeven's usual naughty bits and gore all over the film, with very good performances from Krabbà (C) and Soutendijk. By this point, Verhoeven and producer Rob Houwer had fallen out, they split and Verhoeven finally went to Hollywood and made Flesh & Blood (1985) and RoboCop (1987). The rest, as they say, is history!!
May 22, 2012
Funny and creepy worked together for a strange little supernatural/noir/mystery/horror film. Compelling on multiple levels.
½ April 11, 2012
Surreal, atmospheric, coolly erotic thriller with shades of hidden depth!!
Super Reviewer
½ December 20, 2011
Eros and Thanatos are always present in the oeuvre of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. Even if sometimes gets a little too excessive or gratuitous in his portrait of sexuality and crude imagery, he manages to sustain tension and a twisted comedic touch. I deeply enjoy being submerged in a demented artist's mind.
½ December 4, 2011
Creepy horror thriller with a touch of Don't Look Now or similar... not bad, stylistically, but didn't really touch me...
September 25, 2011
I adore this flick. Dark humor & sexy with gore lol.
July 6, 2011
Nobody can create such a chilling athmosphere like Paul Verhoeven. It's amazing how he manages to captivate the viewer.

Some of you may recognise his name from movies like Basic Instinct, Show Girls, Total Recall, Hollow Man, RoboCop ect. But not many has discovered his earlier dutch movies, which are one of a kind.

Characteristic for Verhoeven's style is like mentioned earlier, that chilling athmosphere created with long takes with suiting music, lots of religious imagery, unstable main characters, and explicit sex scenes.

I really love the way Verhoeven "plays" with us watchers. It's all through the movie suggested that the main character is going to be stabbed with a pair of scissors...

*An alcoholic writer, Gerard Reve, suffers from distrurbing hallucinations that he will soon die, or be killed, to be more specific. Stabbed with a pair of scissors.
Conveniently, he meets a mysterious blonde woman who is a hair dresser.*

The blonde femme fatale is an element that feels very classic. The deadly blonde.
½ April 13, 2011
Wild Hitchcockian erotic psycho-thriller from director Paul Verhoeven. It's over the top, but in a sharply calculated way that makes it a deviously clever and darkly comic melodrama. Bold in its raw depiction of sexuality, with great intense performances from Jeroen Krabbe and Renee Soutendijk as the femme fatale. Verhoeven's last Dutch film before coming to Hollywood, it anticipates many of the themes and style of his later blockbusters.
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