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The Return Of The Repressed In The Film Good

Good Starring Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker

The excellent performances by Viggo Mortensen (Hidalgo, Eastern Promises, Lord Of The Rings), and Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Patriot, Peter Pan), in the 2008 film Good was Academy Award winning level. This seems to be one of those films that despite the level of talent displayed by the director, cinematographer, costuming and talent, the film did not get its day in the world of awards nominations. Truly astonishing given the beautiful cinematography by Andrew Dunn (Extraordiary Measures, Hitch, Previous, Gosford Park). The lens was a main portion of why the film was so moving, under the direction Vincente Amorim (The Middle Of The World, Bossa NOva, Nordestes), the lens brought fire between the repressionist symbols of the love affair between the characters Anne and Halder. This love affair is the symbol of the flirtatious relationship between the ordinary people of Germany had and that of the Third Reich and the rise of National Socialism.

The entry of Anne into Halder’s life brings out all the repressed feelings he was having about his marriage to a neurotic wife and relationship with his ill mother, and the possible way out of all of the stress he had with mental illness in his family – compassionate euthanasia. The irony of it all is the mental illness Halder himself suffered under the stress of betraying his family and friend, Maurice Israel Glückstein. The lessons of history were brought out so eloquently by the director and talent, in main part Mortensen and Isaacs. Under the directorship, this pair combined with the talents is Whitaker, brought the fire and headiness of that which was the ultimate undoing of Germany and Halder who finds himself wandering among Jews in a concentration camp, an open ending the director so fluently left for the audience to conjecture afterwards the fate of Halder and Germany and Glückstein. Many a lesser director would have spoiled the entire piece by inserting a view or a political statement or even worse yet telling the audience the fate of the character we came to get behind and then feel disappointed when he dons the swastika as a way out of his unhappy life.

It cannot be mentioned enough how the lens influenced this film. Dunn by no means let the audience down in style and the brilliant colors his eye brought to bear on the entire conflict. The color red in this film had a dual purpose yet one in the same – the love of an idea can bring down an entire people. Combine this with the simplistic yet moving piano solos designed by composer Simon Lacey (Good, The Railway Children), the music that both lures and comforts the story. Each time Halder sees a group of people singing or playing, the first being very disconcerting at best, it is clear he falls further into the madness that was not yet even know to be the insanity of the Third Reich, the very idea that someone who at first telling was good, decent and caring, holding the weight of his family, dutiful yet still lovingly. This is a mistake on the part of the numerous awards ceremonies not to have recognized the work of this director and the talent behind the message in the film, perhaps overshadowed at the time by the release of Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie, also an excellent film. Perhaps the film history books will keep this work as one to study, the art and emotion of a deeply felt passion nobody knew would be the ruin of so many lives.

Respectfully told, the Jewish side of this film was intelligent and honest, perhaps the reason the opposing swastika was so real and frightening. Mortensen and Isaacs would do well to pair up again, perhaps with Cronenberg in the near future. It was by their ability to subtly draw out the conflict, slowly peeling away the story’s onion skin, that would be very well served under Cronenberg. This is one more film that shows us Mortensen still has the artsy passion for film, the thing that brought most of his viewers as his audience from the start. Good may not have earned many nominations or awards, but it deserved them. What a pity it was overlooked.

Topanga Journal
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