Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Malkovich, Gottfried John, Marianne Sägebrecht, Volker Spengler, Heino Ferch
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Similarly Requested DVDs
Original, featuring a fine performance by Malkovich
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 10/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This strange and original work is a French film about Nazi Germany done in English. There are no subtitles. Director Volker Schlondorff is German, the screenplay is by veteran French writer Jean-Claude-Carriere, who has scores of films to his credit including Bell de Jour (1967) and Valmont (1989), and the star is the American, John Malkovich, who plays a French simpleton named Abel Tiffauges who ends up as a servant in Field Marshall Herman Goering's hunting estate during World War II, and then later in a Hitler youth academy for boys.Malkovich's Abel is enormously sympathetic because he has suffered but harbors no bitterness, because he genuinely loves children, and because he has a certain magic about him based on his childish belief that somehow he will survive any catastrophe. In a boy's home as a child he survives the brutality of a proto Goering-like fat boy, and then later as an auto mechanic he overcomes a false accusation of child molestation. Both of these little stories are vividly rendered and seem entirely realistic. Then begins Abel's war time adventures, and it is here that the story becomes, as some have observed, something of a fairy tale. Abel is able to leave his barracks at the prison to wander about where he meets a blind moose and then a German army officer at a deserted cabin in the woods. This leads to his being established at Goering's hunting estate, and from there to the Hitler youth academy where he is treated as a privileged servant. We see the Nazis as just another part of the bizarre personages of his world.The depiction of Goering as a kind of self-indulgent Nero, living in opulence as the world burns, seemed entirely believable. The overall portrait of the Germans in an objective and balanced manner was refreshing and thought-provoking and one of the strengths of the film. The Nazi eugenicist is contrasted with the officer who was part of a failed plot against Hitler, both men enormously sincere and dedicated, the one unbalanced, the other unlucky.This is not a film for those looking primarily to be entertained. This is a work of art, dark, uneven, and a bit curious."
Paul Emmons | West Chester, PA USA | 02/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"_Pace_ the anonymous Los Angelino who dismissed this film on the basis of a few morbid/vaguely scatalogical moments, this is one of my favorite movies.These moments are few and mild compared both to the original book _Roi des Aulnes_ by Michel Tournier (where I'd agree that they are overdone, without disputing the critical consensus that this is a rather great modern novel) and to the director's earlier film "The Tin Drum". Here Schlondorff should be congratulated for his restraint. He seems determined to tell a story with beauty and artistry-- portraying the charms of Nazified Germany not in alien black and white but in the beguiling living color with which its citizens actually had to contend-- rather than depending upon shock value.Abel, the protagonist, combines three images from literature or folklore: ogre, Erlkoenig, and Saint Christopher. Similar to a pied piper, the Erlkoenig is a mysterious horseman who entices and carries children away from home, described in a poem by Goethe and in one of Schubert's most famous songs. (The film also alludes to the pied piper himself with a scene in which Abel plays a pipe to seven boys before bringing them into the castle). The ogre is a man-eating monster who is stupid and almost blind but has a keen sense of smell. Saint Christopher, the flip side of the Erlkoenig, was also known for carrying a child-- but in this case valiantly. The salient characteristics of all three figures are reflected in many details in the film.With regard to the title figure, however, little in either the screenplay or Malkovitch's characterization suggets that Abel is feeble-minded. He is a reader, a skilled auto mechanic, and comfortably bilingual. Herein lies the clue, as I see it, to the message that our Angeleno can't find. Abel's stupidity and blindness were primarily moral, and it is a fact of history that this same failing afflicted millions of intelligent people in the presence of Nazi ideology. As Count Kaltenborn observed, for a long time Abel, along with hundreds of normal boys, was intrigued by the flags, torches, and nocturnal ceremonies designed to appeal to weak minds. The Nazis co-opted and twisted the history and culture of which the Germans were justly proud: genealogy, chivalry, romance, legend, even traditional Christian symbolism. They also co-opted and twisted both Kaltenborn (the ancient aristocrat) and Abel (the admiring newcomer), shrewdly appealing to their particular tastes, desires, and sense of self. In return Abel tells us "this school felt like home... I was happy with my new mission." The realization dawned on him slowly that, despite doing what he loved and did best, and with the best of intentions, he was aiding and abetting an evil and catastrophic regime. But once it penetrated, his behavior, far from trivial, became heroic while remaining completely true to himself. I'd like to hear this critic's suggestions as to how anyone in his situation could have done better.In one sense this story was a fairy tale. In another, it was quite real: it happened to an entire nation. As the historian John Lukacs said, understanding history depends on self- understanding. Only if we viewers realize how we might succomb to the same blandishments can we prevent such a disaster from befalling us."
The Beauty within the Beast
geminijef | 11/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unfortunately, The Ogre was not released in the U.S. (as far as i know). I was fortunate enough to see it back in 1996 while in Europe. The film is one of the most incredible portrayals of humanity and the usually tepid John Malkovich rises uncharacteristically to the occassion, giving an incredible performance.Malkovich plays an ignorant man, Abel, living in a small town at the dawn of the Nazi movement. He seems to be mentally slow, but emotionally heightened as he has a great passion for the vitality of the children in the town. He is fond of photographing, especially children. However, due to a mis-understanding, because the people of the small town are so ignorant and afraid of the quiet lumbering Abel, he is sentenced to jail (undeservedly) for the crime of molesting a child. He is transferred to help with the war effort in France, and eventually comes to work for the Nazi party, "recruiting" children for the cause, in part due to his ability to relate with the kids. He, however, does not seem to know what the Nazis stand for, or why he shouldn't be taking in children. He cares for the children as if they were his own, and is eventually persecuted for harbouring a young Jewish boy, which is when he begins to realise the ramifications of his plight.A brilliantly scripted film with a very interesting study of disparity and what it means to be good or evil. A must see.-jgl"
A poignant and compelling film
flickjunkie | 04/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1996 film, which was not released in the U.S. until 2000 in the rental market, offers a fresh German perspective of World War II. It puts a more human face on the people of the Third Reich, much in the same way as `Das Boot'. We are used to depictions of German soldiers as brutally evil, soulless killing machines (and there is a bit of that here) but this film mostly presents a softer more balanced portrayal. This is the story of Abel, an affable simpleton from France with a love of children and animals (no, there are no undertones of pedophilia). Prior to WWII, he is wrongly accused and convicted of child molestation. While working in the work camps, he is captured by the Germans and through a series of events ends up as a prisoner of war worker in a training school for Hitler youth. He is emotionally seduced by the romantic notions of Hitler's national socialism and the great devotion to the fatherland that is being taught there. And of course, he loves working with the boys. The Germans notice this and how much the boys like him as well, so they ask him to recruit more boys for the school from the local countryside. Things go along well until the Russians invade and the only defense of the school must be made by the students (who are well trained in the art of war).This is a terrific story that gives us a more realistic look inside Germany during the war. No, it wasn't an idyllic free society. But it wasn't exactly a factory for mechanized inhuman killers as it has been routinely portrayed either. We come to understand that what we considered evil was being presented to the children in terms that seemed good and noble. They felt as if they were on an idealistic quest, not on a diabolical mission of subjugation.The direction of this film was expertly done. Volker Schlondorff's presentation of the story, though slow moving at times, offered an excellent character study of Abel and was patient in proffering revealing looks at the people and the feelings of those around him.Malkovich is fantastic as the naïve and slow witted Abel. He is wonderfully childlike and sincere in his portrayal; reminiscent of his role in `Of Mice and Men'. This is the best I can remember him in quite some time.This is a poignant and compelling film of substance. I rate it a 9/10. The sophisticated viewer will enjoy it."