Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good: just another Third Reich movie



Germany's Third Reich didn’t last its planned thousand years but there seems little doubt that they will be making movies like Good for that long. It’s certainly a winning genre at the Oscars and the box office.

The key word for this Nazi/Holocaust film is derivative. You know immediately that you’ve been there before:
  • the swastika-draped scenes of Hitler’s Chancellery,
  • the book burning,
  • the betrayal by academia of their principles,
  • the wrecked apartments of the wealthy urban Jews,
  • the extravagant lifestyle of the senior Nazis,
  • tension between Aryan and Jewish friends,
  • the roundup,
  • the concentration camp climax.
This is another film where it’s very difficult to empathise with the protagonist. Kate Winslet’s character in The Reader, Hanna Schmitz, copped some criticism for showing the human side of the holocaust perpetrators. Viggo Mortensen’s John Halder may also be too human for some. He is a weak, compliant individual who clearly thinks of himself as a good man. He may be essentially good, but his increasing acceptance of the dark side of the Third Reich comes too easily. The world needed better.

Academic and novelist, Halder is a cold, wet fish. He barely enjoys his adulterous sex life. His criticisms of the Nazis are shallow: Hitler is a joke who won’t last. He sees his role as honorary, an SS “consultant”. “I prefer to be called Professor.”

Like many of its genre, Good has a very attractive look. Its costumes are well designed. The production notes reveal their pseudo-authenticity. They’ve been modernised by use of 30s styles that most resemble our own. There are few hats except for the military. The sets reflect the grandeur of Speer’s Berlin:
GOOD uses Hitler’s affection for neo-classical temples to underline the split personality of the entire society—a society in which all those clean, white marble and limestone surfaces are meant to hide a nation’s debased, besmirched soul.
The official website also claims that Director Vicente Amorim “heightens the visual elements – sets, costumes, and lighting – to emphasize that what we are watching is symbolic, a sweeping parable about conscience and consequences.” If it’s about the struggle between individual and society, or within himself, then we see a very one-sided contest. Halder was just following...

Nevertheless this is a well-made film. Many other directors could take a leaf for its concise 96 minutes. It is hard to fault the performances of its very professional cast.

If you missed The Reader or The Counterfeiter or classics such as Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List, then Good will be a fresh and rewarding experience.



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