Once in a while a movie comes along that is so odd and so bizarre that the line between real life and an episode of The Simpsons begins to blur.
In Sept., the Toronto International Film Festival premiered the film Max – an Adolf Hitler bio-pic, starring John Cusack.
According to the festival’s program, the film “gives the Third Reich a back story.”
In the film, a wealthy Jewish art dealer named Max Rothman (Cusack) encounters a disillusioned soldier, Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), who yearns to be an artist.
Despite his horror at Hitler’s developing anti-Semitic rhetoric, Rothman nonetheless supports the young man and “seeks to save him from politics with art.”
With a movie plot that sounds like a bad Mel Brooks gag, a few questions need to be asked.
First, “What the hell?” Second, “Who in their right mind would go see this movie?”
And third, “Should this movie even be coming out?”
As open-minded as I am, the idea of watching Rob Gordon from High Fidelity as Hitler’s drinking buddy stretches the limits of credibility and is ultimately, well, pretty disgusting.
I don’t believe in censorship, but I do believe that there are certain ideas that reek of stupidity and bad judgment.
Furthermore, I am not advocating anything along the lines of Max being canceled or blocked from distribution.
Last time I checked, this was a free country, and the right to create movies of questionable taste was still a right.
I am simply asking why anyone would ever spend money to watch this movie.
The basic idea behind Max is that Adolf Hitler, rather than being a mascot for evil, was a human being possessed by bad decisions and misguided beliefs.
In a recent Salon interview, associate producer Sidney Blumenthal states that, “There is a tendency among some conservatives to talk about figures like Hitler as beyond human understanding, as a dark force that just sprang full-born into the world.
Max shows that evil has nuances — it doesn’t just emerge in its full nightmarish quality instantly, it develops day by day, it has its own evolution.
That makes it more horrific.”
Attempting to show the roots of genocidal evil, especially in the current political climate, is admirable.
However, director Menno Meyjes and producer Andras Hamori do not grasp that a 90-minute movie is the most inappropriate way to discuss this topic.
I came across the news of Max from an email sent by the festival, and my roommate and I promptly kneeled over with laughter.
After a few jokes about Café Society With Ho Chi Minh and Stalin: The Animated Series, our laughter turned into disgust.
The roots of evil can’t be illustrated in a movie; the movie screen is too small a palette.
So, instead of an epic, Max is bound to become a drunken B movie for college students to watch at 2 a.m. on a Thursday night, right after watching a John Waters film.
Maybe Meyjes should have written a book and left this movie unmade.
Some bad ideas don’t need to be acted on, and this movie is definitely one of them.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at N_terminal@yahoo.com