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MAX, 2002
Movie Reviews!

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max, 2002 MOVIEMAX, 2002
Movie Reviews

Director: Menno Meyjes

Starring: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker, Ulrich Thomsen

Review by Joseph Paul John McCarthy


SYNOPSIS:

A Jewish art dealer, who lost an arm during World War I befriends a young art student named Adolf Hitler, encouraging his artistic aspirations. However, the bitter and penniless Hitler is torn between his artistic desires and the increasing influence politics begins to play in his life.

REVIEW:

Max is a film I never even heard about when I randomly started watching it on a late Saturday night in early-2011. It was one of those movies and one of those times where I was about to go to sleep, but for no reason I was flipping through the channels while I was thinking about what I needed to do the next day. Then when I landed on channel 347, the movie Max just started. And I was hooked.

I am really interested in stories about what makes someone a bad or evil person. Adolf Hitler just wasn't born and was an evil human being right off the bat. It wasn't like he was threatening to kill all the other babies in the hospital who happened to be Jewish! There's a system of events, plus the skills of the person, that makes people turn out into who they are. I grew up in the Niagara Region in the 1980s and 90s and happened to be almost the same age when serial rapist and killer's Paul Bernardo, and his wife, kidnapped and eventually killed two young teenagers. It really haunted my upbringing (and my others my age) as the reaction to this brought out the worst in people. And many had plenty of reason to be so sad and angry. But there never was any perspective on what happened and Bernardo was treated as one of those "evil people in the world". I never bought it. Life just isn't that black and white. He deserved to go to jail for life and perhaps even killed for when he did, but how did he become such a bad guy? (his wife is a whole other story)

Adolf Hitler will go down in history as one of the most horrible human beings on the planet earth. But what happened with this guy? In MAX, they humanize Adolf Hitler as we are placed in post-World War I. Adolf is an aspiring painter, fresh off his tortures of his past family and war experiences. He's a man full of energy and most of that energy is negative. Max, the art dealer who lost his arm in the war, sees in Adolf a man who is full of life and brilliant at the art of influence. He's got work to do in his paintings, but Max sees a boy who just might be very good some day when he learns how to channel all of that energy. Hitler needs a role model. He's a man who never had much of a family and the little memories he has of them are all negative in nature. Germany has just been humiliated in WWI and that has made Hitler feel even worse about himself. Everything he does ends up in failure. But perhaps painting could be his first success.

Max knows that Adolf is a dangerous soul. He says that he's befriended him because he feels sorry for him and feels that he could do some good for the young Hitler. But Max is a guy who always has an ulterior motive. He's a business man trying to get by dealing art and at times manipulates situations to achieve money. He doesn't seem to be much of a father to his kids either. To top that off he's also a serial adulterer as sex is his addiction of choice. Max is the "bad guy" in the film as Adolf Hitler is the idealist "good guy" in the film.

The story arc of MAX is Hitler's struggle to who to listen to. Max can help him with his art, but he can't really trust him? While Germany's new Nationalist Socialist Party has taken a liking to young Adolf as he's a natural born speaker and communicator. And they really need one of those guys.

MAX give a speech about half way through the film that tells us what this film is all about: "I used to think we rode into the war on horseback. But now I realize that in fact, we rode into the war on words. Yes, my friend, words. If the high command had used nails to hammer our feet to the mud, I think we would have found a pair of pliers, passed them down the line, and made a break for it. But the words... the words kept us rooted to the ground."

Our belief system is what motivates us to take action. Governments do it and of course organized religion does it too! And those who speak the best will get their message across. And that's what the Nationalist Socialist Party sees in Adolf Hitler. They are a young organization and they need that leader who is good in front of crowds. The rest is history. I can see why this film got buried all over the world. Most of us are not yet ready to humanize the worst of the worst. It's just easier if we label them. MAX is a brilliant film that I hope gets a second chance in this world. Raves to Noah Taylor's performance as Hitler too.

One of the best performances I've seen in a while. He made us care for Adolf Hitler! If that doesn't deserve an award or two, I don't know what does!

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MAX