Archive for May 11th, 2010

Good (2008)

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”*

The above quote came from Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797), it pretty much sums up the entire movie Good.

It is impossible to talk about this movie without giving the plot away so consider the whole review a bit of a plot spoiler.  Having said that as a story based around the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930’s we all now know what that led to and the bigger picture is more important to this film than the finer points of the plot.  As such I will go into more detail regarding the plot than I usually do.

Based on a play by C.P. Taylor: John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is a literature professor in 1930s Germany and the “Good” man of the story.  At the beginning in 1933, despite pressure from his farther-in-law he is reluctant to join the Nazi Party as he disagrees with them morally and philosophically.  Struggling with his relationship with his sick and senile mother (Gemma Jones), his neurotic wife (Anastasia Hille) he starts an affair with a student (Jodie Whittaker). Halder finds a new impetus to work on his novel, a work of fiction about compassionate euthanasia.  During this time we meet his closest friend Maurice (Jason Isaacs), to begin with the fact that Maurice is Jewish is irrelevant to their relationship as it would be in any normal society.  As we move through the 30’s their relationship becomes strained as pressure is placed on the Jewish population.  Three years later (shown at the start off the movie as it utilises a non linear structure) Halder is called to see a party official (Mark Strong) to discuss his book that he is informed is very much admired by the party and by Hitler himself. Before long he is given an honorary SS rank and is in the employ of Adolf Eichmann (Steven Elder). The movie shies away from the harrowing images of holocaust movies like Schindler’s List but ends with a simple but effective realisation of how far the “good” man has fallen.

Originally set to star Hugh Jackman as Halder the movie hit fanatically problems and lost its star and director Lone Scherfig, Vicente Amorim took over direction and the movie was shot in 2005.  It received a very limited release in 2009 in America and the UK and is now available on DVD (where I say it). The change of star was probably a good thing, Viggo Mortensen does a great job in a part that I can not imagine Hugh Jackman playing.  Jason Isaacs and Mark Strong are also excellent as always.

The non linear direction works well to point the viewer in the direction the story is taking but then suddenly it stops two thirds of the way through making its early use a little obtrusive.  Considering the subject matter the story and its themes are quite subtle at times.  This is a powerful reminder that although the upper echelons of the Nazi party contained fanatics the thing that gave them their power was the ordinary people who went along with their ideas even if they didn’t believe in the ideals.  Although not as emotionally charged as movies like Schindler’s List or The Pianist as a morality play it is hugely effective and thought-provoking. An interesting and sometimes rewarding movie rather than an enjoyable one.

* Looking on the internet I also came across a variation also attributed to Edmund Burke “All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing” I’m not sure which is correct, they could both be.

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