Good DVD Review
By Mark Cappuccio
6 February 2010
Image Larry Horricks.
© Good Films.
The central idea of what can turn a good man to evil and how easy is it to turn the wrong way down a path in life that you never imagined taking is the premise of this excellent film based on an acclaimed play by CP Taylor.
It looks at the life of John Halder (Viggo Mortensen), a German literature professor who in the 1930s writes a book that deals with the subject of compassionate euthanasia. His book, although not widely read, is noticed and championed by powerful political figures and used to support government propaganda in the Nazi party. Halder then finds that his career and status is improving in a rise of nationalism that is sweeping Germany. But his book and what it means, along with his life decisions, begins to damage his friends and family with devastating effects.
Viggo Mortensen is one of the best actors on the planet and for years has been carving out a career of stunning performances along with appearing as some old ranger in a few films about Hobbits.
Here he shows another side to his range as the insular and often nervous teacher, providing the audience with a performance that shows us the humanity and honesty of Halder and how he turns from good towards evil. He is ably supported by Jason Isaacs as Halder's Jewish friend Maurice, who is the one character that ends up suffering almost as much as Halder does but in a physical as well as a psychological way when he falls from being a respected psychiatrist to a hated Jew as the Nazis take power.
Also worth mentioning is Jodie Whittaker as Halder's mistress, Anne. First seen in the excellent Venus, here she proves again that she is a young British actress to watch for in the future as she more than holds her own with Mortensen.
The direction is good considering the theatrical history of the original material and director Vicente Amorim wisely expands the action when needed to take in the likes of an SS gala party and keeps the focus on his main characters during a Nazi march. The film feels steadily more claustrophobic as Halder's decisions weigh down on him more as he is seduced by his new wealth and status.
This is a riveting and intelligent story with astounding performances and a brilliant micro study of how a work of fiction can be corrupted for evil, much like the man who authored it. Check out Viggo's performance in this before wandering along to see The Road out now in cinemas and see someone completely at the top of his game.
DVD Extras: 30 minutes of interviews with the director and cast.
Last edited: 15 March 2011 06:01:58
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