A film studying the depiction of a friendship between an art dealer named Rothman and his student, Adolf Hitler.A film studying the depiction of a friendship between an art dealer named Rothman and his student, Adolf Hitler.A film studying the depiction of a friendship between an art dealer named Rothman and his student, Adolf Hitler.
I say this to illustrate a point. MAX is the story of two men, each on a quest to do something good. Each has a noble goal and yet both end up on a collision course with History. The first man is Max Rothchild (John Cusak, High Fidelity) a German Jew who has just returned from WWI missing an arm. He has settled back into his comfortable life of wealth and prosperity, with his beautiful wife (Molly Parker, Kissed) and his beautiful children. He has a mistress (Leelee Sobieski, My First Mister), and is a chain smoker. He probably drinks more than he should as well. He is also unable to do what he really loves, which is paint, so he does the next best thing. He becomes an art dealer. If he cannot create art why not discover the next great artist.
The other man is Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor, Almost Famous) a German, who has returned from the war with nothing. He lives in the army barracks because he cannot afford a home for himself. He follows the rules and is straitlaced. He will not smoke. He does not drink (not even coffee) and he loves his country, a German all the way. But he does long to be a great artist.
One day these two men start a relationship. It is amicable if strained. Max takes Hitler under his wing. Trying to get him to open up and embrace his art. Hitler becomes fed up and is dragged away from his art by the army. They have given him the platform he's always wanted, and with this platform Hitler begins to rail against the Jews, and those that threaten the great country that is Germany. In the end this one man is forced to chose between art and power. Real history tells us what decision he made.
MAX is a fictional account of the early life of one of history's most evil men. But what I really liked about it is that it makes an attempt to get to heart of why people make the decisions that they do. Why did German nationalism lead to violence and genocide? Why do some people who are tested by pain survive and thrive, and others can be in the same place and become bitter? Why and what turned Hitler himself into a monster? Did he have a run in with a Jew that broke a promise or treated him like crud? All these questions come to mind and MAX tries to come to gripes with them.
What I also like about this movie is it has no hero, but allows you as the audience to be empathetic to these men. Maybe Hitler has a point. Maybe he has the right the feel put upon by the world. Why, when he plays by the rules, does he live in the gutter, while a fast talking, hard drinking, chain smoking, adulterer has a warm bed? It would make me mad too and doesn't jealousy make us do some pretty drastic things.
Writer/ first time Director Menno Meyjes (The Seige `Screenplay') has crafted a compelling and challenging story. The film makes a monster into a human being, not by praising him but by asking the one question we all ask, why? It doesn't begin to editorialize on what Hitler became, but presents us with a man who can make the right decision or walk down the wrong road. Of course we can never change the past, but we can try to find out where it all went wrong.
John Cusack does a marvelous job of painting the picture of a good guy with a great heart, but too many flaws. There is a great scene near the end of the film where his wife confronts him with his adultery. Max never once says he's sorry, and I don't think his wife expects him too. But she loves him too much to run away. Will Max change his ways, maybe?
Noah Taylor's Hitler has the perfect nuance. On one hand he's a bottled up ball of rage about to explode, on the other he's this wide-eyed dreamer looking for a shot. This is the hardest kind of part to play because the audience already comes in with the picture of what and who Hitler is, and not who he is at this moment. While he is an object of scorn, and rightly so. You can and must empathize with him, or the performance is lost. Taylor plays the right chords, and it works.
My favorite scene in the films comes as Hitler is giving a speech about the supremacy of the Aryan race and Germany in a local bar and nobody is paying attention to him. Except one kid. Later in the film Hitler is giving a similar speech to a room of about a hundred people and guess who's sitting there. That single kid has turned into hundreds. An idea, no matter how wrong and misguided, has power. It reminds me of those KKK rallies, they show on the local news. Sure hundreds show up to berate these people, but if one person hears and is mad at the world, they can be easily swayed. Makes you think, that maybe what we say and do can have an effect on the people around us.
MAX was my favorite film from last year and rightly so. It's bold, controversial, and asks a lot of questions, other films haven't. But mostly it's a human story about two men and their unlikely friendship. It's about striving to do what's right and it's about the power of art. It's about propaganda and politics--Hero's and madmen. MAX is a great film. ***** (Out of 5)
- Aug 21, 2003