The Fourth Man (Dutch: De vierde man) is a 1983 Dutch suspense film directed by Paul Verhoeven, based on the novel “De vierde man” by Gerard Reve. The film stars Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk in the lead roles. It was Verhoeven’s last film made in the Netherlands before he established himself in Hollywood; he would later return to make 2006’s Black Book. The film was selected as the Dutch entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 56th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
The Fourth Man centers on the psychosexual crisis plaguing a writer played by Jeroen Krabbé. Director Paul Verhoeven introduces Krabbé naked and fantasizing about murdering his gay lover—after opening the film with a spider cocooning flies caught in its web, which segues into visions of Christ on the cross. That mixture of perverse violence, voracious danger, and Catholic guilt defines Krabbé’s saga once he journeys to southern Holland, where he falls in with icy, epicene blond Renée Soutendijk. Covering her breasts in bed to make her look more like a boy, Krabbé actually pines for Soutendijk’s hunky boy toy Thom Hoffman, whose sexual shortcomings Krabbé promises to fix—by attempting to seduce him in the mausoleum housing Soutendijk’s three deceased husbands. Like many of Verhoeven’s other films, shows graphic violence and gore.
Paul Verhoeven and cinematographer Jan de Bont drench the twisted narrative in all manner of symbolic motifs, crafting a dreamlike atmosphere of paranoia, fear, and lust—themes the duo would revisit almost a decade later in Basic Instinct. Panicked that Soutendijk is a black widow who intends to make him her fourth victim, Krabbé navigates a landscape where there are no boundaries between reality and nightmare: Allusions to Samson and Delilah mix freely with Krabbé’s hallucinations about eyeballs popping out of their oozing sockets, a red Speedo-clad Hoffman on the cross, and Soutendijk castrating him in bed with the same scissors she uses at her salon. Krabbé’s deliriously over-the-top performance and Verhoeven mentioned that The Fourth Man’ is a spiritual prequel to Basic Instinct.
- Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
- Produced by: Rob Houwer
- Written by: Gerard Reve (novel) & Gerard Soeteman
- Cast: Jeroen Krabbé; Renée Soutendijk; Thom Hoffman & Dolf de Vries
- Music by Loek Dikker
- Cinematography: Jan de Bont
- Release date: March 1983