In celebration of the 40th anniversary of TIFF, I will be revisiting one film from each year I attended the festival. Please be aware that these discussions may include SPOILERS.
Some of the standout films that I saw at TIFF in 2008 included the IRA drama 50 Dead Men Walking, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, and the Canadian comedy Real Time. The film that I decided to revisit from this year was Vicente Amorim’s Good, which was an adaptation of the stage play by C.P. Taylor.
The main thesis behind Good is that even though the Nazi’s were responsible for many evil acts during the holocaust, not all members of the National Socialist Party began that way. The film focuses on the friendship between German literature professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) and Jewish psychologist Maurice Glückstein (Jason Isaacs). Coming between them in some says is Halder’s mistress, turned second wife Anne (Jodie Whittaker), who greatly influences Halder’s stronger involvement with the Nazi party.
Halder joining the party is the main crux of the plot of Good, which takes place over the course of a decade. Despite not agreeing with the things that Hitler represents, it was impossible for Hadler to advance his career without joining the party. When he finally makes that decision around the midpoint of the film, it begins to dig Hadler into a hole, which he soon wouldn’t be able to escape. Probably the most interesting fact is that, even though Hadler was an academic, he was given an “honorary” rank in the SS.
The main turning point of Good is the Kristallnacht incident of 1938, where a German diplomat was assassinated by a Jew in Paris, This gave the Nazi’s an excuse to start the Holocaust in full, which included Hadler being upgraded to a full member of the SS. This all makes Hadler worried about the fate of Maurice, who he had a falling out with when he refused to help sneak Maurice out of Germany.
Being adapted from a stage play, Good is extremely dialogue heavy, with much of the plot involving conversations between characters. There are also times throughout the film when Hadler imagines people playing music and singing, usually when he is under great stress. This works in great effect during the film’s final scene, where Hadler visits a concentration camp to look for Maurice and realizes the great horrors that he helped contribute to.
I should talk a bit Jodie Whittaker’s character of Anne, who begins as Hadler’s student and eventually becomes his lover and second wife. In many ways, Anne is an influence on Hadler’s growing involvement with the Nazi party and there’s a poignant scene in the film when she is obviously turned on when she see’s Hadler in his SS uniform for the first time. However, there’s the revelation made at the end that Anne betrayed Hadler’s trust and turned Maurice in to the gestapo, when he came for help.
At the time I saw Good in 2008, I wouldn’t have been that familiar with Jodie Whittaker, who was probably best known for starring with Peter O’Toole in the 2006 film Venus. However, I would later become familiar for her roles in films such as Perrier’s Bounty and Attack the Block. On this second viewing, I also noticed Mark Strong, who is quite prominently featured in the first act of the film as Chancellor Philipp Bouhler.
There is really not all that much to Good and the 96 minute runtime goes by pretty quickly. However, I still believe the film to be a quite decent morality tale.