christopher heiser <christopher AT heiser DOT net>
Date Published: September 9th, 2002
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Cusack on His New Movie, "Max"

Dr. Kahle stopped his studies just long enough to find a great Salon article on John Cusack's new movie entitled "Max." Controversy already surrounds this film which deals with the transformation of a young Austrian veteran and failed artist into Germany's Adolf Hitler. Cusack plays the part of Max, a jewish friend of young Hitler who sees an artist filled with rage and frustration and tries to turn that energy into art. The film deals with the choices made by a human that eventually led to one of the 20th century's greatest murderers.

As you might imagine, there are several groups that are extremely distressed about this movie. Despite the fact that the project was originally going to be done by Speilberg ("The script is great, don't compromise on anything. But as the head of the Shoah Foundation, I just can't do it. I can't tell these survivors that I'm doing the movie. But you should go ahead on your own and do it.") the film is being vilified by its critics inlcuding the Times' Maureen Dowd and the Jewish Defense League:

"Not only is the film in bad taste, it is also a psychic assault on Holocaust survivors and the entire Jewish community. There is no moral justification for making such a movie. To glorify or humanize Hitler makes a mockery of the 12 million -- 6 million of them Jewish - victims of Hitler's tyranny...[t]he Jewish Defense League is calling on Jon Feltheimer, chief executive officer of Lions Gate Films, to shelve this movie. We need YOU to contact the company to tell them how you feel about this project. This is not art! This is obscenity!"

I understand that people who sufffered an unimaginable fate at the hands of Hitler don't relish the idea of a movie that portrays Hitler as anything but a cariacture of evil incarnate. And I completely respect their right to voice distress and anger at Cusack's film. But to deny that Hitler was indeed a human and to prohibit the exploration of how he became such an evil man seems to me counterproductive to their cause. Furthermore, the pronouncement of a movie as obscene and outside the definition of art smacks of the brand of facism that drove the political movements in Europe after the first World War. It's a tough subject, but not one that hasn't been covered in scholarly research. Isn't it possible that such a movie, instead of somehow "glorify or humaniz[ing]" Hitler, could lead us to better understand how to avoid a future that repeats the past?

by Christopher Heiser on September 9 12:17
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