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Top Customer Reviews
Wonderfully cast and acted, this is a dark tale of cause and effect on people's lives. To paraphrase the moral of the book "be careful what you pretend to be."
Nolte is perfect as the lead with surprising and excellent roles by Arkin, Sheryl Lee, and John Goodman. If you are a Vonnegut fan you will not be disappointed with this interpretation of his book.
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.Read more ›
Howard Campbell, Jr., "The Last Free American," is an allied spy who broadcasts Nazi propaganda from Berlin during WWII, but his copy has been marked up by Allied intelligence in such a way that coughs, pauses, emphasis in his delivery are sending out intelligence to the west. The question is should he be condemned for who he is pretending to be and for the overt message of hate that he sends out on the airwave; or should he be absolved because his covert (unconscious) communication is providing vital information to the Allies and thereby freeing concentration camp prisoners and defeating the Nazis?
Campbell is a character who really doesn't know what he's saying. He spews hate and believes he is sending out useful hidden information, but he can't be sure. He doesn't believe in the propaganda -- it's a useful cover for speaking the deeper truths in a society that will only hear what it can hear. Ironies and ambiguities compound on one another until Campbell loses sight of who he is or where he belongs or where he can go. He comes to a dead stop. He has no reason to move in any direction.
Vonnegut is a moral writer -- funny, but moral. There is a small bit of humor here, e.g. an African-American Nazi! Irony taken to absurdity. And as a GE-brat myself, I can always count on Vonnegut to work GE (Schenectady in particular -- his old employer)into the storyline somewhere.
The moral of this story seems to be two: "You must be careful what you pretend to be, because in the end, you are who you pretend to be." On this basis, Campbell would be condemned. And so he is.Read more ›
Vonnegut's role in the making of "Mother Night" was surely instrumental in its success as a piece of cinematic brilliance. Nolte and Company certainly put on exceptional performances and they cannot be overlooked, either. However, the story is where the meat of the matter lies and it is laid out beautifully in front of us.
What is more important is, having read the book, it is 99% line for line translated to the screen. I am tempted to say that if you watch the movie, you will have read the book, it's that close. Still, I highly recommend both book and movie, though the latter is what I am writing on today.
It makes one pine for Kurt to work with more Hollywood directors in making his works shine in a different medium. This is one of his few pieces, though, that is easily leant to cinema. Thank goodness it was done right. A must see!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Outstanding movie adaptation of Vonnegut's Mother Night. Dead on.Published 3 months ago by Richard Bouslog
I found the delema of the main character's past affiliate with Nazis to his present situation.Published 6 months ago by Mary A. Graham
It concerns the narrative of Howard W. Campbell, Jr a man who is politically apathetic and deeply in love with his German wife. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Susman
A great story, with Nick Nolte in one of his greatest performances. Whether a true story or not, it is a plausible one in a war era where spies and subversives must have thrived.Published 15 months ago by R. Dale Woosley
An unusual story from an unusual author. I plan on reading the book next.Published 17 months ago by greg
I've watched this movie several times. It is something about the corrupt nature of Nick Nolte, while at the same time, he realized that as a Nazi, he contributed to the death of... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Mary Rucker
Based on a Kurt Vonnegut book of the same title it stays true to the story and is both powerful and moving.Published 20 months ago by bisrosolan
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