Movie Review: “Good” – A Reflection of American Denial in Nazi Germany

I deal with hypocrites like the protagonist every day and know him all too well - he's the average, "educated" "Good American." Halder's speech is "cultivated," lends "horrific events the tonal weight of a fracas at a tea party." Halder denies bleak reality but believes himself to be moral - he even denies the destruction that his own denial has brought about. In the film's "revelatory scene at a concentration camp ... he wanders dazedly around the premises casting furtive glances" at the prisoners. At base, he is a coward and a murderer by proxy, but condescends to all. Halder would have felt at home on the Internet - he'd be calling me a "conspiracy theorist," posting hateful comments, and reinforcing the denial of his fellow deniers, fascist enablers all. - AC

Aligning With the Nazis, Blindfold Tightly in Place
NYT
December 31, 2008

In “Good,” the anemic screen adaptation of C. P. Taylor’s play about a respectable “good German” who passively acquiesces to Hitler’s agenda, Viggo Mortensen, miscast and ineptly directed by Vicente Amorim, plays John Halder, a liberal, mild-mannered literature professor who becomes a Nazi.

How and why this could be is never satisfactorily addressed, unless you accept that he’s a moral vacuum, in which case why write a play about such a nonentity? The movie dances as skittishly around its subject as its protagonist blindly ignores portents of the impending Holocaust.

Halder’s obliviousness might owe to the fact that Anne (Jodie Whittaker), a juicy, Nazi-sympathizing student for whom he abandons his demanding, neurotic wife (Anastasia Hille), makes him feel like a he-man. Or maybe he is seduced by the flattery heaped upon him by a high-ranking Nazi official (Mark Strong) who relays the inner circle’s admiration for his novel about euthanasia.

In the Nazi view, presumably (the movie doesn’t say), that book has value as propaganda, because for the Nazis the difference between mercy killing and the Final Solution is just a matter of degree. The movie shoehorns in a subplot involving Halder’s shoddy treatment of his miserable, ailing mother.

Halder views Nazism as a distasteful phenomenon, not to be taken seriously, that will soon play itself out. Even when a book burning takes place outside his window, he finds a positive side to it. At every turn he appears to be either so naïve or so stupid that even after the transport of Jews is well under way he remains in near-total denial. ...

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