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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.",
It concerns the narrative of Howard W. Campbell, Jr a man who is politically apathetic and deeply in love with his German wife. He is an American, who has lived most of his life in pre-WW2 Germany, after initial reluctance he is recruited as a spy for the US. His job is to get in with high ranked Nazi's and send secret messages to the American's via his weekly radio show. Consequently, Campbell begins to make his way up through Joseph Goebbels' propaganda organization to become a Nazi propagandist. A vision of Lord Haw-Haw comes to mind. He does this through carefully orchestrated eccentricities that come to fruition in Campbell's speeches, such as - deliberate pauses, coughing, etc. Nevertheless, when the war ends he is condemned as a war criminal, but escapes to New York, where numerous odd plot twists await in the form of a Soviet illegal and an African American Nazi.
The plot is carried through with skill, and apt self-confidence. In addition, there are some fabulous moments of black comedy involving three right wing Christian fundamentalists and a very highly ranked Nazi in a prison cell. This is perhaps one of the best roles Nick Nolte, which he has played. This is an excellent and thought provoking film and thus comes highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars A great portrayal of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s book,
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is one of the finest American authors of off-centre stories about identity. This film, based on his book, is an excellent, adult, film on that theme; without melodrama, or sentimentality.
Directed by Keith Gordon, who has directed both in the "House - Season 1 (Hugh Laurie) [DVD]" series and "Dexter - Seasons 1-3 Complete [DVD]", seems to like drama for adults, stories that need thinking about which change our own lives if we let them touch us.
So it is in Mothernight. Nick Nolte, Sheryl Lee and Alan Arkin all ask questions about identity; and what is justice. The questions don't just settle with the characters; what is society? what is politics? and, does the end justify the means?. These are the universal questions we are left considering at the end of the film. What is true wavers back and forth. Is society what we see on the surface, or do we have to delve deaper? Should we be on our guard against ourselves?
This film sits well in the company of "Slaughterhouse Five [DVD]" and "Breakfast of Champions [DVD] ".
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you pretend to be,
This review is from: Mother Night [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
Throughout his acting career, Nick Nolte has never particularly inspired my admiration. Until MOTHER NIGHT, that is.
In a film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel of the same title, Howard Campbell is an American playwright who grows to manhood in Germany before World War II. He marries Helga, a German actress. During the war, he elects to broadcast anti-Semitic speeches for the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Unknown to his Nazi bosses, he was recruited as an agent by the U.S. Defense Department shortly before the outbreak of the conflict, and Howard’s radio sermons pass along coded messages to the Allies. Only three other Americans know of his role: his mysterious recruiter Frank (John Goodman), FDR, and the head of the OSS. Frank tells Campbell that the American government will eternally disavow his heroic actions as the Soviets would twist the story into some sort of anticommunist German-American plot.
By the war’s end, Helga is dead. (Or is she?) Campbell is captured by the U.S. Third Army, but then released, apparently on the intercession of Frank, who also manages to spirit him to New York to restart his life. After 15 years living there unnoticed, Howard’s role as Hitler’s tame American is revealed to the public by an admiring neo-Nazi organization. Both the Israelis and Soviets clamor for his repatriation to stand trial.
MOTHER NIGHT plays more like a live stage production. It begins with Campbell being escorted to an Israeli prison to the song of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. The film is a series of long flashbacks. At one point, Howard observes in a voice-over to the viewer that one must be careful what one pretends to be for that is what one truly becomes. Although MOTHER NIGHT has been criticized for its lack of a message, I rather believe that it’s that an individual must in the end take responsibility for his/her actions in life regardless of the role, real or pretend, that’s been played. For Campbell, realization of the consequences to humanity of his wartime persona comes at three widely separated points. The first, as the Red Army drives on Berlin’s outskirts, Howard’s father-in-law, the Chief of Police, tells Campbell that even though he (the Chief) suspected his son-in-law of being a spy, he now realizes that Howard served the Reich more than he might have ever served the enemy. Why? Because Campbell, with his broadcasts, made the Chief (and presumably other Germans) better Nazis. The second point comes in New York as Campbell views archival footage of one of his more rabid diatribes. And the last, in the Israeli prison, when Howard has a stunning insight during a conversation with Adolf Eichmann regarding the amount of self-credit the latter takes (or not) for the annihilation of 6 million Jews.
I can’t give MOTHER NIGHT five stars for the simple reason that the neo-Nazis that Campbell eventually meets in New York are rendered as almost comic characters whose racist views don’t come across as menacing as they truly are. Had they been portrayed with more seriousness, the overall impact of the film would have been, I think, greatly enhanced. Nevertheless, MOTHER NIGHT is well worth viewing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Right on Target!,
For me this is the most accurate Kurt Vonnegut depiction in film today. The director has managed to nail the Author's tone, the down beat dead pan humour I love Vonnegut for. The cast without exception are excellent with Nolte showing true depth.
As for the actual DVD, it's a very much "what see is what you get". The film, and no special features of any description. But, given that this film is superb in every detail, that's fine, and the price I got it for made me a happy owner indeed. I would buy this again should there be a special edition made available.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Auf Wiedersehen,
A brilliant film, (lacking a message?), well it has one, but it is not the usual easily broadcast here it is in large font and capital letters type of message. The film works on numerous levels around memory and culpability, the bond formed within human emotions and what is real and what is not.
In between we have the Final Solution and US culpability within its unfolding process. In actual fact the US was much more embroiled than depicted within this film. IBM supplied the machinery for the round up and the ideology was wholeheartedly supplied by US industrial trust funds (Take a bow - Carnegie Foundation, Rockefeller, Ford, and the individual gifts by Loeb and Harriman to the eugenicist cause). Roosevelt himself was nearly overthrown by the same geistmasters in 1934 who wanted to emulated their German prototype. Unfortunately even he could not stand up to Ford and Dupont along with Morgan when it came to taking a stand.
So the film looks at one mans involvement within the Reich and how he played various roles and later assuaged his conscience, limiting himself to not being interested in politics. Funny how people can tell themselves the most deluded things and believe in it, is part of the films repertoire, as Nick Nolte puts in a stunning performance as the main character, trapped within his make believe world. So he gets himself to think he is involved within the American war effort and plays the role with aplomb, moving from playwright to actor - trouble is he became his make believe character to such an extent he boosted the morale of the Nazis to keep on fighting. So Arthur Campbell becomes a true double agent.
Trapped within the power politics of the Cold War, he is wanted by all sides to atone for what occurred during 1932-1945 but as we all know now silence was the main virtue accorded after the war. Reels of deaths were replayed but as the Cold War swung into action, former allies became demons and former demons became friends. The film captures this shifting allegiance.
The American Nazis played with an English lead are comical rather than the real deal. In effect Nazism in the USA has been a much more pervasive brand but also strangely more visible and invisible. Its working class version in terms of the Klan is seen as comical and vicious but its Ivy League version is the social norm.
The other layer within the film is around emotions and how do you define love and what is a real love. It is in this respect the film sparkles throughout and shows how human interactions both lead to deception and transcendence.
So watching this film you are led to the beginning of a rollercoaster and then get a huge push off into a world of realistic surrealistic nihilism where the final reflection is whether it was worth the ride. A US film which eschews the easy option and instead asks many questions.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mother Night,
excellent film about the covert operations of a spy playing both sides and showing what the recriminations of staying on the fence during political wars can bring years after the events..... well worth watching for those who choose not to take a side and declare it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Your Past will catch up with you!,
I first saw Mother Night in the late 90's and have watched it 3 or 4 times since. It's got such an interesting plot it is very rewatchable. It's also a very interpretational movie, both while watching it and after you can't help but analyse and consider the motivations and innocence or guilt of all the characters, especially Nick Noltes Spy/Nazi. The films very well put together with some great performances that include Alan Arkin and John Goodman. A very good film with a great story and cast.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
Very good movie
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Mother Night [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] by Keith Gordon (DVD - 2000)