’Tis the season to gather, be grateful for what we have and share what we can. But for cinephiles, it’s awards season, and that means dreary fare — particularly with a World War II or Holocaust focus. No fewer than six are set for release this holiday season.
In theaters now are The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which tells the story of a forbidden friendship between the son of a Nazi officer and a Jewish boy imprisoned in a concentration camp; The Reader, which stars Kate Winslet as a former concentration-camp guard on trial years after the war; and Adam Resurrected, which follows a Holocaust survivor (Jeff Goldblum) living in a mental institution.
Valkyrie, which opened on Christmas day in the US, stars Tom Cruise as a German officer who heads up a plan to kill Hitler. And two more Nazi-oriented films open on New Year’s Eve: Defiance stars Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber as brothers who battle the Nazis from a secret hideout in the woods, and Good features Viggo Mortensen as an academic and novelist reluctantly enticed into the SS fold after he’s approached to write some mild propaganda for the Nazi party.
In a recent interview, Cruise joked: “Go kill Hitler on Christmas!”
But some critics aren’t amused.
Influential US critic Roger Friedman on Friday blasted Valkyrie as a “Nazi apologia.”
The movie features Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, an aristocratic German who lead a group of top officers who hatched a plot to kill Hitler late in the war.
Friedman, film critic for Fox News, said the movie appeared to intentionally minimize the impact of Nazism.
“I’m concerned that Valkyrie could represent a new trend in filmmaking: Nazi apologia. Not once in Valkyrie do any of the ‘heroes’ mention what’s happening around them. Hitler has systemically killed millions,” said Friedman. “Valkyrie opens the door to a dangerous new thought: that the Holocaust and all the other atrocities could be of secondary important to the cause of German patriotism.”
Friedman criticized the set designers for minimizing or hiding the swastikas that have become symbols of the evils of Nazism, and blasted the portrayal of Hitler as a “doddering fool with a British accent and a nice suit.”
Friedman’s political criticism of the movie may have been the sharpest of US reviews, but it was far from the only negative assessment.
Writing in the Washington Post, Phillip Kennicott blasted the film’s puzzling failure to portray von Stauffenberg’s life before his unsuccessful assassination attempt — when he was untroubled by Nazism and served as Hitler’s loyal soldier.
Kennicott also criticized the movie for failing to point out that the plot was hatched not out of moral objections to Nazism but only when Germany was facing imminent collapse.
Cruise himself came close to distorting the extent of German support for Hitler and his policies.
“It’s important to know that it wasn’t everybody — not everybody felt the way [Hitler did] or fell into the Nazi ideology,” Cruise said during the film’s US press tour.
Icelandic singer Bjork is seeking investors in a venture-capital fund she helped start to finance new businesses and boost the economy in her home country, according to the fund’s Web site.
Audur Capital, a Reykjavik-based investment fund founded and managed by women, will run the fund, which is named after the 43-year-old singer. It was started with an initial investment of 100 million Icelandic krona (US$790,000) and will close to new investors by March of next year.