"Did Max Inspire a Petty Hitler?"
What You Need To Know:
In MAX, Max Rothman has returned from WWI, minus his right arm, to pour his Jewish family fortune into the modern art world of decadent Germany. Corporal Adolph Hitler has returned from the war with nothing. Max takes interest in the troubled Hitler and tries to inspire him to explore the feelings that Hitler refuses to address in his ultra-realistic art. Simultaneously, a racist German captain gets Hitler involved in the National Socialist Worker’s Party, where he learns anti-Semitic propaganda. Hitler becomes a minor speaker for the party and stirs up some of the young Germans who have returned home from the war. The men end up killing Rothman and Hitler's artistic dreams.
MAX has some fine acting in it, especially by John Cusack. Hitler, however, is reduced to a nail-chewing, weak-willed neurotic who stumbles upon the idea of anti-Semitism. The movie suggests that the Jewish Max Rothman shaped Hitler’s persona, which has causal implications that are horrific to consider. If the movie succeeds in reducing Hitler in size and scope, he may be easier to understand, but then people may forget man’s propensity for evil and so fall prey to similar demagogues
(HH, Ab, LLL, VV, S, N, A, D, M) Humanist worldview with the ranting and raving of anti-Semitic National Socialists and some Christmas music in the key death scene; 27 obscenities, 12 profanities and vomiting; man ruthlessly beaten evidently to death by National Socialist mob and puppet show exposing "evil" Jews complete with beatings; adultery professed but not shown and mild sexual activity; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, rabble rousing and racism.
Cognitive dissonance reduction posits that people often try to deal with dissonance or anything negative, painful or horrible by attempting to reduce the significance of the dissonant event. In a cinematic version of cognitive dissonance reduction, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL broke new ground in Holocaust movies by applying the cutting edge of humor to skewer the evil National Socialist extermination of millions of Jews. Now the movie MAX, starring John Cusack, tries to capture Hitler at a vulnerable point in his life and reduce him to a confused neurotic, searching for direction.
The movie opens with Max Rothman, who has returned from World War I minus his right arm, pouring his Jewish family fortune into the modern art world of the decadent Germany between the wars. Corporal Adolph Hitler, played by Noah Taylor, comes home to nothing and carries his art through the city streets. Hitler follows a pretty young girl into an art exhibit Max is holding in an old factory building.
Max takes interest in the troubled Hitler. He tries to inspire him to explore the feelings that Hitler refuses to address in his ultra-realistic art. At the same time, a white, racist German captain gets Hitler involved in the National Socialist Worker’s Party and feeds him anti-Semitic propaganda.
Hitler becomes a minor speaker for the National Socialist Worker’s Party, and in the process he stirs up some of the young Germans who have returned home from the war. Inadvertently, they crush his hopes for a future as an artist by killing Max Rothman, his patron.
The movie MAX has some fine acting in it, especially by John Cusack. The camera work and direction are foreboding and captivating. The dialog waxes eloquent, almost too eloquent in many places.
Hitler, however, is reduced to a nail-chewing, weak-willed neurotic who stumbles upon the idea of anti-Semitism. This may reduce this horrible evil historical individual to manageable proportions, but once he is relegated to this neurotic status, the audience could inadvertently conclude that millions of Jews were killed by this pathetic figure and therefore buy into the horrible Nazi propaganda that the Jews did not want to live or even to stand up for their lives. The movie also implies that the Jewish Max Rothman somehow shaped Hitler’s persona, which has causal implications that are horrific to consider.
Historically, Hitler was very clear about who he was. Contemporary reports from his days as a corporal suggest that he had a powerful personality. Brilliant men and women were overwhelmed by his personality. The German people voted for him and his policies. He swayed one of the most educated populaces in the history of the world. In other words, he was a foe with which to be reckoned. The horror of the Holocaust is highlighted by the menace of a man so dedicated to evil. If this movie succeeds in reducing him in size and scope, he may be easier to understand, but then people may forget man’s propensity for evil and fall prey to similar demagogues.
MAX is a valiant effort. Sometimes it is so wordy that it is dull, but often it is brilliant. Unfortunately it tries to do something that should not be done . . . that is to diminish the nature of evil that caused horrific racial genocide on a mass scale in a so-called developed and civilized country.