The Fourth Man (De vierde man)

The Fourth Man

When you’re warned, you must listen.

De Vierde Man, or The Fourth Man, is actually my first non-English Paul Verhoeven film, from before he left the land of the Dutch to make films for Hollywood (this was, in fact, his last film before he did so). As such, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thanks to my research, I got a pretty good picture of what that may be. The Fourth Man is one hell of a weird film, and it keeps it up for a good hour before the plot decides to jump in and lend a hand. I wasn’t really sure what kind of film The Fourth Man was trying to be; psycho-sexual thriller, black comedy, melodrama, or something else entirely. Really, it ends up being a little of everything; a hodgepodge of genres, uncertain of which it wants to commit to.

This film does everything in its power to unsettle you, even when there is no need for you to be unsettled. The film begins, for instance, opening on a shot of a fly caught in a spider web, with the spider quickly running over and consuming the poor trapped creature. The rest of the opening credits is more footage of spiders being spiders, intercut with images of an effigy of Christ, so pretty much immediately we are put on edge. Then, for the rest of the film, every time a scene of some significance occurs, even if we cannot tell why it is significant, the music amps up or strains through various chords to up the tension. The music is the prime factor towards setting the mood for this one, and that mood is a constant state of nervousness; we never really know what to expect with this film. Of course, it’s not just the music that adds to the experience; the film’s liberal use of shadows, eerily-moving camerawork, and constant use of close-ups suggest a lot to the mind. It’s just figuring out what they are actually supposed to mean, rather than just what they suggest, that’s the issue.

I’m really at a loss for words on this one, in terms of why it’s on the list, or how to recommend it. There’s a lot here that’s thrown in for no apparent reason, such as the film’s propensity towards graphic gore or violence, or the random visions or hallucinations the main character has throughout the picture. It seemed to be an important aspect, but it never went anywhere. That’s really how I felt about this one; it never really went anywhere, or rather, it wanted to go in a bunch of different directions, and never committed to any of them. I don’t really know if this film does enough of any one aspect or selling point to recommend it to fans of those various sorts of things, but neither can I call this a bad film. It’s just a little misled, is all.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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One thought on “The Fourth Man (De vierde man)

  1. Agreed completely. The Fourth Man does some interesting things, but doesn’t have a solid idea of the film it wants to be, so it ends up being a mushy collection of half-premises.

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