Sunday, September 10, 2006


From the Archive:

Max (John Cusack) was a promising artist in early 20th century Germany, but he lost an arm in WW1, and now he runs an art gallery. He sponsors and encourages young (and not so young) artists. Among them is an aspiring art student named Adolph ......... something or other. He likes Adolph - they served in the war together and he "understands" him - and so takes him under his wing. He wants him to be a better artist, and thus a better man.

I don't know if the events in this story actually happened. It doesn't matter. We catch these two men in a particular moment in history. They're friends of a sort, one is a Jew, and the other is ..... well, Hitler. This is Hitler, before he got sucked into the anti-Semitic movement, growing in Germany at that time. The alluring thing about this film is that it allows you to wonder how history may have changed at any point, if only a character had made a different decision, or maybe bought some paintings, or maybe if circumstances had been only slightly altered. Armed with hindsight, it's easy for us to watch and shout at the screen, "No! You idiot. Don't do that!"

The performances are perfect. John Cusack shines when he has a good roll and script. He is convincing here as Max, the art gallery owner (except that it's in English) who always tries to do the right thing, and as the man who may or may not hold the fate of the world in his hands. Noah Taylor is brilliant. His accent, expression, and mannerisms are exactly what Hitler may have been like as a young man (except, again, that the movie is in English).

This movie received a lot of criticism when it was released. People were upset that the movie seemed to humanize a monster. Unfortunately, most of these critics were people who had not seen the film. Many of those critics, who then watched the movie, retracted their statements. They probably found that the film doesn't exactly make him a likeable character. Plus, you have to realize that even Hitler was a human before he was a monster. Besides, the focus of the story is Max. Hitler is just a subplot.

Rent MAX and watch it this week. Even if you don't like it, it's bound to start a dialog. Besides, in what other film could you possibly find the follow line of dialog? "Come on, Hitler. I'll buy you a glass of lemonade."



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