Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's audio commentary; Theatrical
trailer; Picture gallery; Scene access; Interactive menu.
ADOLF Hitler has been portrayed as many things on film - a tyrant,
mass murderer, evil personified - but seldom, if ever, as a frustrated
artist with a sensitive side. Yet this is the intriguing premise
of Max, a provocative, yet intelligent, historical fable.
Set in Munich in 1918, as Germany reels from the effects of World
War One, the film finds John Cusacks art dealer, Max Rothman,
opening up an acclaimed art gallery and befriending a fellow war
veteran, Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), who seems hopelessly caught
up in the blurred debate surrounding art, politics, and personal
For Rothman, a German Jew who lost his right arm in the Trenches,
Hitler represents an intriguing, but often frustrating, talent,
but the two frequently clash over their views, forcing Hitler
to transfer his creative talents to politics, where he can finally
find an outlet for his raw beliefs.
Caught up in this post-War struggle to reclaim a nations
identity are Maxs beautiful wife, played by Molly Parker,
and two children, as well as Maxs alluring mistress (Leelee
Directed by Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Menno Meyjes, Max dares
to pose a what if scenario that is likely to provoke
the wrath of the narrow-minded, but which remains a compelling
and deeply memorable movie for those who like to be challenged.
For while the character of Max may never have existed, he is
representative of many things - a witness to history, a savage
wit, adoring husband, philandering lover, a passionate intellect,
forward thinker, outrageous optimist and unabashed realist, not
afraid to speak out against and challenge modern thinking.
Hence, his relationship with Hitler is a frequently volatile
one, borne out of a begrudging respect for each others talents,
and their harrowing experiences in the Trenches.
As Meyjes states, Max Rothman was created to exist in a state
of timelessness - to look, sound and feel as if he could exist
just as easily in the 21st Century, as if his idealism and energy
could be part of todays culture.
As personified by the charismatic Cusack, who practically chain-smokes
his way through every scene, Rothman is a mesmerising presence,
a free thinker capable of provoking intelligent debate with whoever
he shares company, while challenging one of the most dangerous
figures of modern history to express his emotions through the
medium of art, rather than politics.
Taylor, too, excels as the young Hitler, who manages to walk
a fine line between sympathy and madness - a man desperate to
pursue a lifelong artistic passion, but who finds himself ruthlessly
manoeuvred along the path he will ultimately take.
And while many people will criticise the film for daring to portray
Hitler as anything other than what he eventually became (it was
accused of being anti-Semitic in America), it is worth remembering
that Hitler was, once, serious about becoming an artist, having
applied to the Vienna Art Academy when he was just 18.
An exhibition of Hitlers paintings, entitled Prelude to
a Nightmare: Art, Politics and Hitlers Early Years in Vienna
1906-1913, was even shown at Williams College Museum of Art last
year, drawing both controversy and acclaim for the curators
courage and the shows relevance to contemporary discussions
on the intersection of art and politics.
The debate surrounding that exhibition is likely to be mirrored
by the one which will undoubtedly envelope this film, but it is
surely one worth taking part in.
Meyjes avoids the temptation to be sensational for the sake of
it and coaxes some terrific performances from a noteworthy cast.
As a result, he has delivered a deeply unsettling, defiantly humorous
and, ultimately, extremely powerful cinematic experience that
really ought to be seen.