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The ViewChristchurch Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/06/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Enjoyable, darkly comic drama with a terrific performance by Noah Taylor.

The impressively designed posters for Max show John Cusack lighting a cigarette against a wall plastered with many copies of the same billboard poster of the real Adolph Hitler. At the side, just next to Cusack, surrounded by real Hitlers, is a single poster of the film’s Hitler, Noah Taylor, with a wry smile.

It’s a great idea and it illustrates the difficulty of playing The Most Evil Man In History and the impossibility of divorcing the performance from what we know of the man. And it’s almost as if the poster (and the film) is giving a sly wink and saying ‘But we had a go anyway’.

Hitler’s Agent…

Cusack plays Max Rothman, a fictional Jewish art dealer who takes struggling artist Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor from Shine) under his wing in Berlin in 1918, sensing that he has frustration and anger that could be expressed artistically.

At the same time, Hitler becomes more and more caught up in politics and making speeches and finds himself under pressure from German Army Captain Mayr (Ulrich Thomsen) to use his anger as a propaganda tool.

It's a pretty simplistic idea, really - Hitler becomes dictator because he can't cut it as an artist, plus, the aesthetics appeal to him and he begins to see "politics as the new art”. It's the sort of plot where, if you describe it to anyone, it sounds like an awful farce, but the performances, the sensitive script and the period design all pull it through.

Excellent Script And Superb Performances

The film really belongs to Noah Taylor, who gives a brilliant performance. Presumably, the actor spent ages listening to Hitler's speeches, as he sounds really convincing. It's a weird feeling, to be feeling sorry for Hitler, but Taylor pulls it off.

Lines like "How's my career going?" get laughs but they're also steeped in pathos. He even manages to get in a few catchphrases, such as “It’s disgusting!” (practically spat out) or “You’re a funny one…”

Cusack is excellent too, giving a quiet, confident performance that ranks as one of his best. However, both Leelee Sobieski (as Rothman’s mistress) and Molly Parker (as his wife) are saddled with woefully underwritten parts, which is a shame.

The script is excellent, managing to be at times moving, provocative and darkly comic, with lines such as “You’re an awfully difficult man to like, Mr Hitler, but I’m going to try” and the surely destined for classic line status "Hitler! Come on, I'll buy you a glass of lemonade..."

In short, though the film is not intended as a biography and its central premise needs to be taken with a large amount of salt, it is definitely worth watching. Recommended.

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Content updated: 22/10/2019 04:27

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