Sunday, 7 August 2016
Max (4½ Stars)
This is the 15th film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2002 when she was 18. Yes, I know I'm jumping backwards and forwards, not watching her films in order. It's the only way I'll get through them all this year. She only plays a relatively small role in this film, but it's my intention to work my way through her entire filmography.
The Max named in the film's title is Max Rothman, a wealthy Jew who lives in Munich. In 1914 he volunteered to fight in the German army, where he served until 1917. In the Battle of Ypres he lost his right arm and was discharged. Before the war he was a talented artist, but he's now unable to paint with his left arm, so he makes a living buying and selling art. Unlike the people around him he lives a life of luxury. He has a beautiful wife, but he also has a mistress, Liselore von Peltz, played by Leelee Sobieski.
In 1918 Max meets a struggling young artist called Adolf Hitler who has just returned from the war. Max recognises Hitler's talent and sells some of his paintings for low prices, telling him he can make more money if he puts more emotion into his art. At the same time Hitler is engaging in politics, making speeches in beer halls. Max is fascinated by Hitler, because they hold many views in common, such as hating the Treaty of Versailles. However, Max tells Hitler that he should concentrate on his career as an artist, because there is no future in politics.
What would have happened if Hitler had taken Max's advice? Did he have enough talent to become a great artist who would have been revered today? I don't know. People usually criticise him and say he was talentless, but I suspect they're biased against him because of the other things he did in his life.
There's also the question as to how Hitler would have continued in his personal development if he had maintained his relationship with Max. The film shows him initially being uncertain about anti-Semitism. He's pushed into it by fellow soldiers who see the Jews as being responsible for Communism. Max, of course, is far from being a Communist. If a deeper friendship had developed Hitler might have accepted that it's possible to be both Jewish and German.
As I mentioned in my review of "Never Been Kissed", Leelee Sobieski retired from acting because she said that 90% of films involve sexual stuff with other people. Of her nine films I've watched this year none of them have any sexual stuff, and this is the first film in which she kisses a man. I'm keeping count.