Continuing the early filmography of Paul Verhoeven, “De Vierde Man” [Eng. Title: The Fourth Man] successfully crosses over into ‘Noire’ territory by drawing inspiration from various peers of his era, notably Hitchcock and Chabrol. He also experiments with various stylistic elements which he’d later put to use in Hollywood, like in Basic Instinct, which in fact has several parallels with this film. But I feel The Fourth Man is a much more rounded product, where the suspense and ambiguity are retained throughout the film, in fact even after the film.
Like in most of his films, the female characters are as strong and domineering as their male counterparts, and in this film, they’re not just strong, but shown as having the potential to be dangerous too. Disillusioned, bisexual, and alcoholic writer Gerard is invited to a remote town to give a lecture at a literature convention. There he meets Christine, a widow and the society’s Treasurer, who invites him to stay at her place for the night when he misses his last train back to Amsterdam. Gerard isn’t averse to a one-night stand when it comes by, and they end up in bed together, but during the night he secretly reads one of Christine’s private letters from a handsome man, who he instantly is besotted with (the letter by the way, was left deliberately on the table by Christine), and when Christine asks him to live and work with her, he readily agrees, in the hope of meeting her young lover. During his stay, he discovers that Christine had already been widowed thrice, and suspects she might have killed each of her husbands to amass wealth, and is now looking for a fourth man (hence the title). Whatever the case, it is clear both Christine and Gerard have different agenda, but who’s in control, and who’ll have the last say..!
A fine Verhoeven film – and Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Renée Soutendijk