2 March 2010 | ReelCheese
The Man Behind the Monster
Next to Hitler or Stalin, no modern figure has been as vilified as Saddam Hussein. And with the Iraqi despot's atrocities so well known and oft-repeated, it becomes easy to forget that there was a flesh-and-bones man behind the monster.
What makes HOUSE OF SADDAM so compelling is its humanization of the title character. Yigal Naor delivers a subdued brilliance as Saddam, developing the character over a 27-year elapsed period that begins with his ascension to power and ends with his hanging. Naor brings Saddam to the screen without bias. He's as convincing with Saddam the caring family man as he is with Saddam the cold-hearted executioner.
Producers of this four-hour miniseries faced the same challenge as those who have brought other notable world figures to film: what hits the screen and what stays on the cutting room floor? The choice here was to shed light on a quartet of important eras in Saddam's life: his rise to power, his war with Iran, his invasion of Kuwait and his evasion of US forces after the fall of his government. This approach is not perfect - it would have been fascinating to see the final chapter focus more on the process that led to Saddam's fall - but it works well nevertheless.
A rich back story, with emphasis on unstable sons Uday (an amazing Philip Arditti) and Qusay (Mounir Margoum), helps flesh out the story of a complex man in a complex situation. At times the film feels like THE SOPRANOS, with loyalties constantly questioned and bullets planted in the heads of recusants. Given that there is so much about Saddam we will never know, some dramatic license was taken, but none of it screams of pure fiction.
HOUSE OF SADDAM sheds important light on a man whose impact on the world was as devastating as it was profound. With no political agenda, it makes for irresistible viewing.