Newest Reviews
Green Knight, The
Beasts of No Nation
One of Our Aircraft is Missing
Picture Stories
Another Round
Tape, The
Man Who Sold His Skin, The
No Man of God
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Scenes with Beans
Quiet Place Part II, A
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Duel to the Death
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Yakuza Princess
Djinn, The
New Order
Original Cast Album: Company
Martyrs Lane
Paper Tigers, The
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The
ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt, The
Collini Case, The
Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, The
Plan A
When I'm a Moth
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Newest Articles
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
  Max Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler
Year: 2002
Director: Menno Meyjes
Stars: Noah Taylor, John Cusack, Ulrich Thomsen, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker, David Horovitch, Janet Suzman, András Stohl, John Grillo, Peter Capaldi
Genre: Drama, War, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Adolf Hitler: the name still has such a powerful resonance over 50 years after the end of the Second World War. From Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator to Don Dellio's novel Running Dog And Beyond, the fascination with ‘The Most Evil Man In The World’ seems to continue unabated. A further and perhaps controversial addition comes in the shape of the directorial debut movie from screenplay veteran Menno Meyjes. Max, starring John Cusack and Noah Taylor, is a fictional account of the early life and world shattering choices made by a young Adolf Hitler just after the end of the First World War.

Max is a Jewish artist who, having lost his right arm in the war still works in the art world, but as a dealer rather than a painter. He lives a relatively comfortable life with his family and has a mistress, a fellow artist. Into this world comes a young man with no friends, family or real direction to his life, living in war barracks and struggling as an artist. A man called Hitler. The two war veterans meet and whilst it is not exactly a friendship that develops a strange bond grows between them. But Hitler has another mentor, Captain Myer who sees in the young man a different kind of potential.

It is the struggle between two mentors that is one of the central themes of the film and the worlds of political activism and art are represented by both Captain Myer and Max. But the film is most concerned with the relationship between art and politics. The many discussions of art, in particular modernism are well handled. These conversations between the two main characters give the audience a full understanding of how connected art, in particular modernism, was with politics in Germany at this time. Visions of the future and how art could shape and change that future for the better are well conveyed by these moments. Max seems to want to channel the young Adolf's pain and anger (a pain and anger felt by so many who returned from the trenches) into his art. But he of course has no idea as to how far his anger will go and thankfully the movie does not resort to foresight or have ironic moments with regard to Hitler. Instead there are many scenes which have specific resonance, in one seemingly innocent moment Max is talking to his children about “the world upside down”, but for all Jews their world will in, only a couple of decades be totally turned upside down. In another powerful moment the disillusioned troops, Hitler among them, are given an anti-Semitic presentation in a macabre child-like puppet show with Adolf the only one not laughing. Later, in a decisive, if fabricated scene Hitler, frustrated with his canvas, scribbles on a piece of paper with an angry hand ART+POLITICS=POWER.

Noah Taylor, who found international acclaim with his role as the young David Helfgott in Shine, is very good, portraying Hitler as a human being. He shows us a man at a crossroads in his life, a confused angry individual searching for meaning after war. It is only on rare occasions that his portrayal borders on parody but he just stops his performance from crossing that line. This however maybe due to the inescapable images of Hitler an audience cannot totally exclude from their minds when watching this film. Cusack is of course impressive as ever - when is he not - surely he is one of the best and most versatile actors working in Hollywood today even in this part which occasionally borders on the stereotypical. Ulrich Thomsen as Captain Myer delivers a faultless performance creating a believable German officer rather than the usual caricature. Unfortunately many of the other characters are quite inconsequential and as a result the actors struggle in trying to make their parts more than two dimensional in relation to Max and Adolf. Leelee Sobieski as Max's mistress for example is a paper-thin characterisation and the adultery subplot doesn't really go anywhere.

But this film is not called Adolf, it is called Max and this is where other flaws become apparent. When the film is concentrating on Max's life it becomes a tad tedious, despite Cusacks strong performance. As a contrast to Hitler there are some interesting moments and their views on art, politics and the future are compelling but the story of a fictional character could never be as engaging as that of the future leader of The Third Reich and the films pace suffers in these moments. There are other problems, the films direction and cinematography whilst good fail to fully convey the sense of the period. This is supposed to be Germany in 1918 but could be anytime in the twentieth century. The audience are never really shown the larger world of post World War One Germany and as such both Max and Adolf's discussions are not seen in as full an historical context as they should. This is the films fundamental failing. Also, despite the fine performances and close examination between art and politics the idea that a young Adolf may have made the choice to start out on the road to becoming the man we know today because he was not accepted as an artist seems a tad simplistic, naive even. But the strong performance by Noah Taylor goes some way to helping the audience overlook this flaw.

Overall Max is a good film despite some flaws. For the most part well written, directed and acted it is not afraid to court controversy by humanising Adolf Hitler. But at the same time it never attempts to excuse his actions. Its message may be not so much ‘here are the reasons why Hitler did what he did’ but ‘Hitler was and should be portrayed as a human being - albeit one that was responsible for unspeakable acts of horror - rather than a cartoonish supervillain’. But the film is inherently fictional; maybe a more 'fact' based biopic would be a better way of demystifying Adolf Hitler. If the world is ready for such a film.
Reviewer: Jason Cook


This review has been viewed 5480 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: