“The Fourth Man”– an early masterpiece

“The Fourth Man”

An Early Masterpiece

Amos Lassen

Paul Verhoeven is probably best known in America for having made “Basic Instinct” but “The Fourth Man” is his masterpiece. Its amazing script and ending that will leave you intrigued make this a movie that should not be missed.  Here is the story of a man and how he allows himself to become trapped. He is an alcoholic bisexual who finds himself in a spider web where he and other characters must meet their fate. Gerard is on a train on his way to make a speech. As he arrives at his destination he meets Christine, a powerful looking blonde with seductive charms. Even though it is obvious that he prefers man, he gives into her seductive charms and stays with her in her house to be used sexually. While there he noses around and discovers that she has been married three times and all of her husbands have died. Christine has videos of them before their deaths and Gerard develops paranoia.

What the movie attempts to show is the nature of women—that there are good ones and bad ones. It contains the penultimate male fantasy—having a really sexy and beautiful woman lusting after him and having another woman as his protector. While this is occurring in the film, we are treated to a kind of suspense that we ordinarily do not find in film. Verhoeven uses metaphors to create suspense and visually the movie is absolutely stunning.

There is a great deal of full frontal nudity in the film and it adds to the overall effect of the sensuality of the plot and the characters themselves. What really happens in the plot is left up to the viewer to decide—was there murder? We never really know but that doesn’t take away from the theme. There are also heavy religious undertones and the existence of G-d is also brought into play. We never know if the movie is about sin and redemption—Gerard is a lecherous character who has sunk to the depths of degradation is comes across as a total failure as a human being.

The film is definitely misogynistic yet it is also atmospheric and beautiful in its ugliness. It is interesting and thought provoking and was a defining step on the path to opening the world to male nudity and homosexuality portrayed on the silver screen.

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