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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would be difficult to imagine a more tentative project to undertake
than a Holocaust film for numerous reasons. The historical resonance
still proving an understandably sensitive or harrowing issue for many
audience members requires a certain delicacy in storytelling,
faithfully and accurately depicting the horrific events in a fashion
just visceral enough to drive the point home without being so gruesome
as to alienate audiences. At the same time, the events of the second
world war have been approached cinematically so frequently that it
becomes equally perilous to avoid restating facts or perspectives than
have been presented countless times before, making the latest effort to
do so irrelevant. It is in this regard that Good, director Vicente
Amorim's adaptation of C.P. Taylor's theatrical production excels -
while the film may not be the most harrowing or affecting portrayal of
the tragedies of the time, the craftily different approach to which
such matters are breached makes for a compelling, if occasionally
There can be little doubt that Amorim's film is hardly an easy watch from its dour subject matter to heavy emotional questions, ranging from euthanasia debates to the values of loyalty versus self preservation and the true scope of one's choices (drawing explicit parallels to contemporary issues as well as past ones), but avoids self-righteous preaching in favour of quietly needling questions. Indeed, Good proves an odd myriad of both decidedly mainstream and unconventional elements, making the story feel somewhat uneven from scene to scene. The sturdy script nonetheless proves rather conventionally crafted for the intriguing premise, with few meaty lines and many supporting characters reduced to stagey, contrived appearances which detract periodically. Yet simultaneously, several unexpected but greatly welcome quirky touches emerge from what may otherwise have descended into formula, such as the odd moment of out of place but oddly fitting humour, or the addition of protagonist Halder experiencing musical hallucinations heralding momentous decisions in his life which impact others. It is ultimately these unorthodox touches which distinguish Good from the countless other films tackling similar subject matter, going about its business in such a laudably nuanced fashion that comparisons become almost unnecessary.
Where other filmmakers may have sought out soaring emotional crescendos building into an explosion of mainstream melodrama, Amorim keeps the intensity festering on a dull burn, his quiet, subtle telling of the story making it all the more sickeningly credible and resonant than a contrived downpour of contrived emotion. However, this does not go to say that the film shirks emotional intensity in the least, but rather builds it so subtly that by the gruesome climax, with shockingly vivid depictions of an SS attack on a Jewish ghetto and a desolate concentration camp sequence the viewer is all the more devastated by the emotional vice which has without warning ensnared them, making Good's finale one which will stick with most viewers for quite some time afterwards.
That being said, the film is hardly without its concerns, as the nonlinear storyline can prove disconcertingly jumpy, undermining some of the emotional tension, and the decision for all German characters to speak with upper class British accents may infuriate some audience members tired of such cultural appropriation. Similarly, Simon Lacey's musical score proves overly melodramatic and distracting where a quieter, more subtle score more in keeping with the tone of the film would have done wonders. However, the unassumingly innovative cinematography (including a Wellesian five minute tracking shot at the finale) is superb, making perfect use of the visually alluring Budapest locations and ably capturing the excellent period costumes and sets.
Designed as a talk piece, the slight imbalance of the script leaves it primarily up to the actors to keep the film afloat, and they mercifully do not disappoint. Viggo Mortensen is superb as Halder, the passionate professor drawn into a world he does not fully understand and continually finding the repercussions of his decisions spreading wider than he could ever have guessed. Mortensen is far from a showy actor, making him the ideal choice for such a character, as, scattered on the outside but festering on the inside, Mortensen conveys the heart of the character far more with his silence than with his words, emanating emotion with every fibre of his being. Jason Isaacs gives a similarly powerful performance as Maurice, Halder's Jewish therapist and close friend and the film's most poignant emotional hook. As Maurice is gradually stripped of his privileges, rights, freedom and dignity step by step, equally outraged by his friend's involvement in the affiliation condemning him, Isaacs transforms from casually confident to beaten down but fiercely outraged, coming alight with fiery intensity. Jodie Whittaker, fresh off a mesmerizing debut in 2006's Venus once again generates charming charisma as Halder's impressionable student and later wife, though her chirpy enthusiasm does prove slightly out of keeping with the more dour tone of later scenes. Mark Strong proves impressively intimidating as a surly Nazi official, but Gemma Jones manages to both delight and infuriate simultaneously as Halder's ill and mentally unstable mother (adding poignancy to his euthanasia stance) who wavers between powerful and affecting and irritatingly over the top, making it difficult to sympathize with one who should have been the sympathetic centerpiece of the film.
While hardly without its structural frustrations, the subtlety and unconventional take on very serious historical issues make Good a deeply compelling, affecting and thought-provoking morality play, mercifully avoiding preaching or Hollywood emotional wrenching in favour of quiet resonance. For any viewers looking for challenging and draining subject matter tackled from a fresh approach, Good should prove the ideal antidote to any watered down mainstream efforts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching this movie has been a fascinating experience, and at the same
time I understand why so many people seem to hate it. It has little to
no action, an ensemble of seemingly boring characters, and after all,
what haven't we seen several times before? Yet I believe that the
movie's story is the important factor here. Yes, all the different
elements have been here before, but never assembled like this.
What it gives is, in essence, one possible answer to the haunting question - how could it happen? How could normal, civilized, educated people allow and even support what culminated into a world war and the Holocaust? Here you have it - an ordinary, intelligent person, who considers himself to be a good man (and indeed actually might be), with normal problems that plague us all in life. Yet all it takes is a bit of ignorance, or perhaps rather denial, because seemingly everything is just going so well... Suddenly he looks around and discovers that he has become the very symbol of pure evil (very obvious to us today with the black uniform and scull and bones symbols, but oh so mystical, alluring and elite then), who has essentially through inaction allowed his best friend to be sent to death and actually even aided something that stands against everything he believes in.
One cannot help to wonder what would happen next...
Good script, very well filmed and excellent acting, in my opinion.
I watched this film expecting little. However, I was pleasantly
surprised to find the film educational and interesting throughout. It
paints a picture of the 'Jewish Question' and events leading up to it,
focusing on a few characters to give it a personal feel.
Granted, some of the acting was a little ropey, but I would urge people not to let that put them off. I have a particular interest in the second World War, and perhaps that makes me biased, but suspect that even those with no interest in that period of time would still be able to let the film absorb them into the plot.
I thought it was a very good film. Quite a different portrayal on the topic of Nazi Germany from what we are used to. Shows how at the end of the day, the Germans were not people with horns, everything that was going on was very normal to them, everybody was doing their part in a country that was, after a long period in the dark,was finally thriving. They could not see the full picture. This film makes you wonder what you would have done had you been a German in that period. At first the main character in the film does not even support the Reich, him being a Literature professor, especially after having seen them burn all them books. But by the end of it, he winds up in full Nazi attire. But its way too late then.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Good" is a film made in 2008 by the Brazilian director Vicente Amorim,
with Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs in the main roles. The film tells
us the story of John Halder (Mortensen), a literature professor, honest
and devoted to his duties, who leads, however, in Nazi Germany, a lousy
life, in the company of a sick mother, a neurotic wife, demanding
children and the pressures on him by a obsessed father-in-law who wants
to see her daughter's husband as a member of the Nazy Party.
A romance with a young and beautiful pupil in the university, who seems to love him above all, apparently rescues him from this miserable life, but the worst is still to come: having written a novel centered on the polemic theme of euthanasia, professor Halder is demanded by the authorities of the Nazi Party to write reports on the subject, in order to support the barbarian eugenics experiments perpetrated by the Nazi ideologists against non-Arian people, mission that professor Halder accepts, more because of his fear to displease the man in power than by personal conviction.
The situation evolves in such a proportion that Halder can't control it any longer, making him a famous and influent intellectual, not for the reasons he would believe to be appropriate, but, for his grief, because he is now recognized as an important academic support for the filthy medical manipulations the regime executes, with which he now collaborates.
Halder suffers terribly with that, of course, but he also keeps totally incapable of doing anything about. And when he finally decides to make a courageous act about this situation, and tries to save his best friend from death, Maurice, a Jew, Halder discovers that even the woman he loves doesn't have the noble heart he expected from her, but is nothing more than a cold follower of the Nazi ideology that he, although passively accepting it, in fact, despises.
At the end, the movie arrives to an emblematic scene, in which the story seems to show that John Halder, incapable of slipping away, simply gives in to the barbarism in which that place, in that time, is profoundly sunk: we, then, see a Halder overwhelmed by a psychotic outbreak, revealed by his total lethargy in front of the tragedy he personally and socially lives.
My wife and I found this film certainly well made, but also profoundly sad; and, for that reason, not very easy to see, for one who was looking for an agreeable amusement in a cold Sunday afternoon, during which the best thing to do is to stay home, see a TV show under a blanket and drink wine. Since its beginning, this film totally discarded this possibility, imposing to us the need to think seriously about it.
However, thinking about what? For me, "Good" describes terrible times we are living nowadays, when, surrounded by violence, ignorance, corruption, insensitivity and cupidity, we don't have even the chance of thinking, let alone practicing the opposite of those social flaws: gentleness, wisdom, honesty, sensitivity, and generosity. As a Nazi-dominated society prevented poor Halder of showing those qualities he had deeply inside, our own society currently pushes us to a rather cynical identity, against which any human being reasonably conscious of himself will have to fight continuously and restlessly to avoid his humanity falling into pieces. How difficult it is to be good, the director of this film seems to show us! By the way, it was a surprise for me to see a movie like this directed by a Brazilian director, whose personal identification with the Holocaust or the Nazi Germany I totally ignore, except by the fact that he was born in Austria (circumstance that may be easily explained by the fact that he is the son of a diplomat his father is the present Foreign Minister of Brazil).
I started asking myself, then, why would he have chosen, specially for the first movie he fully directs, so far, a theme from the current Brazilian real life: in the connection, would the interpretation I gave above to this movie be a proper one, in comparison with the director's intention? None of the other comments I read in IMDb's site speaks of this issue, but prefer to concentrate on the main actor, Viggo Mortensen, or on the recurrent treatment of Nazism as a theme, by cinema, in the most recent years.
I thought my uneasiness with this could perhaps be solved by trying to know something about the original story. It was written by a British play writer, Cecil P. Taylor (1929-1981), on whom the journalist Alan Plater, from "The Guardian", wrote in 2004 an intelligent article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2004/nov/06/theatre.stage). Plater comments Taylor's production of more than 70 plays and, in this article, we become aware that "Good" was one of the best plays Taylor ever made, and was produced in 1981, the year of the play writer's decease, by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Plater says also that this play resumes a very known Bertolt Brecht's dictum, according to which, "for evil to prosper, good men must do nothing". This important reflection (which I was able to read only after having emitted my opinion on the film, some paragraphs above), by itself gives me the impression that what I thought about the message passed along by Amorim's film is anything but illogical or absurd.
Germany 1933, at the raising Nazi Regime, John Haider (Viggo Mortensen)
is a good man, a brilliant professor of literature who has to care his
ill mother (Gemma Jones), wife and sons. The professor suffers
interruption of some radicals students who burn books in his
University's courtyard . He writes a book that defends the euthanasia
as method to sure a dignity death to ills. His novel is a upright
success in the III Reich hierarchy (Mark Strong, Steven Mckintosh),
including Hitler who takes his novel as justifying oneself the dreadful
crimes against Jews. The Nazi authorities press and threaten Haider to
collaborate with Gestapo and write about legalize euthanasia. Haider is
going into the spiral of Nazi savagery. Meanwhile he falls in love with
a student (Jodie Whitaker)and his Jewish friend (Jason Isaacs)being
besieged by the Nazi pursuers.
This is a splendid drama set on Nazi epoch with thoughtful plot and slick direction .From the sage play by C.P. Taylor, as the producers wish to thanks Royal Shakespeare Company and the original cast and crew of the play. It packs a colorful and appropriate cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Enjoyable musical score by Simon Lacey and including Mahler songs . The flick is well produced by Miriam Segal , as the film is made in memory of his father Ronald Segal whose life's work was dedicated to the betterment of the rights of the others. The motion picture is professionally directed by Austria-Brazilian director Vicente Amorim.
The movie talks about various historic events as happens ¨The night of the broken glass¨ well re-enacted in the film, as the night of November 9, 1938, when terror attacks were made on Jewish synagogues and stores. Two days earlier, Vom Rath, Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris , had been assassinated by Grynszpan, a Polish Jew. In retaliation, Himmler (though doesn't appear at the movie is continuously appointed) and Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SD, ordered the destruction of all Jewish places of worship in Germany and Austria.The assault had been long prepared , the murder provided an opportunity to begin the attack. In fifteen hours 101 synagogues were destroyed by fire and 76 were demolished. Bands of Nazis (one of them is our starring Viggo Mortensen, though unaware) destroyed 7.500 Jewish-owned stores. The pillage and looting went on through the night. Streets were covered with broken glass , hence the name Kristallnacht. Three days later Hermann Goering along with Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbles ( played by Adrian Schiller) called a meeting of the top hierarchy at the Air Ministry to assess the damage done during the night and place responsibility for it. Goebbles proposed that Jews no longer be allowed to use the public parks. It was decided that the Jews would have to pay for the damage they had provoked.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, i've read a lot of things about this movie - and some of them just don't seem right. First of all, it's obviously a Third Reich movie, but it has an unique feature - by showing the acts of a man during the national-socialism period, it reveals the true (almost all the time) human nature. Second, Viggo Mortensen was pretty good (sorry my pun) as the teacher that's slowly engulfed by the Nazist government. He was able to translate into the screen a peculiar sensation, a mixture of apathy and will (quite contradictory by the way). The rest of the cast was also amazing (Jason Isaacs, Mark Strong and Jodie Whittaker) - all of them bring veracity to the movie. The end is like a "light in the dark that came too late" - quite a "bizarre but true" end. And that's life... and so are we.
Long before the advent of the third Reich, Hitler and their persecution
of the Jews in the 1940's, Edmund Burke once now infamously said that
all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing; to know
in their hearts and see the evils going on around them, but to sit back
and let it unfold whether out of fear, apathy or both. Good, which sets
about detailing the profile of a man who fits this description almost
perfectly after he gets involved with the Nazi party unwillingly, deals
with the central premise of Burke's evaluation, and does so whilst
keeping in mind the humanity at play when struggles of good and evil
take precedence. At times sombre and reflective, at others a tad
monotonous and pedantic, director Vicente Amorim's film nevertheless
takes a large page of history and gives it a small, introspective look
at how easily evil can overcome one's life without even knowing. As a
set piece, it lacks the conviction required to take it to a higher
level, but certainly as a small, somewhat humbled character piece, Good
serves its purpose well.
It is of no surprise to learn that the film's screenplay was adapted from a play written by C.P. Taylor; the same themes that carried said play, permeating the entirety of Good's makeup in a way that consistently reaffirms its central ideas and philosophies. While features such as these which deal with the holocaust, the Second World War and the Nazi party with a sense of distilled reality and less than realistic shades of grey when it comes to the portrayals of those behind the uniforms, screenwriter John Wrathall's adaptation stays true to the disquieted approach of Taylor's play and documents the fall of a good man into the hands of his enemy; the censoring, dictating, and anti-semantic nationalist socialist partyeager to segregate the Jews and "cleanse" the new Reich of their influence. Indeed, one of the most important and significant aspects to Amorim's feature here is that here we are invited to see the transformation not only of a country, but of a singular man who remains true to his heart throughout, but fails to notice his outward transformation until one chilling scene where he looks into the mirror to see a man he wouldn't be able to put a name to.
Aside from Viggo Mortensen's obtuse performance which takes him away from his most recently extremely self-aware roles, across from him lays Jason Isaacs who plays his best friend, a Jewish Psychotherapist. Of course, right from the get-go you know where all this is going; and therein lays the only real problem with a story such as this. While Hollywood cinema has been reluctant up until the most recent years to let the Evil from the East be given a face and a soul, even though Good comes at a time when this wave of drama is catching some momentum, you can't help but feel like you've heard all this before in some way or another. Taylor's play does well to stick at what it knows bestwhich is humanity, the heart and the choices that both have to make in order to preserve themselvesyet the moral play at hand here is largely innocuous and unenlightening enough to pass as something of a footnote to this kind of philosophising that has been going on, well, long before Burke even uttered those famous words.
With this being said however, Good, if taken lightly, offers up a nevertheless well crafted and mostly harmless take on the human condition in a manner which doesn't tax but at the same time doesn't cause one to drift to sleep either. With some fine performances from both Mortensen and Isaacs, as well as femme-fatale of sorts Jodie Whittaker and TB-inflicted mother Gemma Jones, the ensemble that dominates the screen here does well to reinforce the feeling of humanity throughout to the point where plotting and overt thematic material becomes secondary to the real conflicts at hand. As a drama, the movie worksif only barely. It's by no means something that is required viewing for just about anyone, but when it comes to movies dealing with the behind-the-scenes transformations of a country and its people during times of social reformation and war, Good has enough to satisfy and provoke thoughteven if they are recycled and a tad overly familiar by now.
- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Halder's life is touched by the advent of the changes in Germany,
where he is living. Halder is a professor at a university. His good
friend Maurice, a Jewish psychiatrist, fought with him during WWI and
have remained a true friend. Their friendship will be put to a test
during the course of the story. The advent of the Nazi movement finds
John Halder unprepared for what the country will become, questioning
his loyalty to his Jewish friend, and the way he treats his own mother.
Although John is married, he is flattered when a young female student, Anne, showers compliments on him. One day Anne shows unexpectedly at his home during a downpour. Concerned about what will happen to her, John decides to put her up for the night, something that is the beginning of his involvement with her and the ruin of his own marriage to the aloof Helen, a woman that doesn't show much affection for him.
One day John is called by a Nazi officer, Bouhler, because Hitler interest in his book in which euthanasia is advocated for terminal cases of dementia and other diseases. Halder is asked to write a propaganda essay in which his own thoughts of eliminating humans can be viewed as a humanitarian good deed. John who enjoys hearing Mahler's music, is suddenly asked not to teach Proust. He doesn't even bat an eyelash when hundreds of books are burned right outside his office window!
The idea that decent German citizens were drawn into the madness that overtook their country during that fatal period of history is the basis of the play by C. P. Snow that dealt brilliantly with the subject. The film, directed by Vicente Amorim, with a screen adaptation by John Wrathall, gives the audience an inside what life was like during the madness that overtook all reason.
Viggo Mortensen, an actor that has done better, is somewhat not at his best, as John Halder. Mr. Mortensen is at a disadvantage playing against such actors as Jason Isaacs, seen as Maurice, the Jewish friend who Halder tries to save without success. Mr. Isaacs is about the best excuse to watch the film. Mark Strong is making a career in portraying subtle villains, as he does with his take of Bouhler. Jodie Whitaker and Steven McIntosh appear as Anna and Freddie. Gemma Jones has some good moments as Halder's mother.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Viggo Mortensen (as John Halder) manages a fairly believable character
because he gets enough screen time. Unfortunately this is not true for
the rest of the characters, who rarely seem more than two-dimensional.
Despite the obvious talents of Jason Isaacs, Mark Strong, Steven
Mackintosh, Gemma Jones and others, not much of substance comes out of
this film. It's almost like a typically tepid made-for-TV drama,
earnest in its themes but too mild in its execution, and too short.
This is one film of recent vintage that feels not long enough for
character and plot development. The story jumps ahead by several years
at a time and we piece together the action through dialog. For those
already informed, this isn't difficult, but for the rest it may seem
too whirlwind and superficial. Comparing John Halder's dilemma to the
very similar one of Michael Moriarty in HOLOCAUST (1978) it's easy to
see the advantages of more screen time, greater plot detail and a
forceful dramatic approach.
But GOOD is not a complete loss. The Budapest locations are pleasing and effective, and the film has one unique touch: the use of music by Gustav Mahler to suggest Halder's subtle connection to a great culture heritage created by Jews. This is effective as long as the viewer realizes we are hearing Mahler every time Halder has one of his strange epiphanies.We can guess that Halder values this music as he values his Jewish friend (Isaacs) and so the ultimate irony is set in motion. Not a bad film, but too mild-mannered and lacking in real dramatic weight.
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