Max (2002)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
January, 2003

Read about Max On the Internet Movie Data Base

Max (2002)
Director: Menno Meyjes
Writer: Menno Meyjes
Stars: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski |
Plot Synopsis: A depiction of the friendship between an art dealer named Rothman and his student, Adolf Hitler.
Plot Keywords: art - art dealer - politics - painter - artist - See All (149) »
Taglines: Art + Politics = Power
Genres: Drama - War
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) Rated R for language
Parents Guide: See below
Country: Hungary - Canada - UK
Language: English
Filming Locations: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, Budapest, Hungary
Release Dates:
June 20, 2003 (UK)
December 27, 2002 (USA)
January 27, 2003 (Netherlands)
September 25, 2003 (Hungary)
Box Office:
Budget:$11,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend USA: $30,157, December 29, 2002, Limited Release
Gross USA: $527,019, March 2, 2003
Company Credits: AAMPI Inc., Aconit Pictures, Alliance Atlantis Communications, Bioskop Film, Canadian Film or Video Production , H2O Motion Pictures, JAP Films, Natural Nylon II, Pathé Pictures International
Technical Specs:
Runtime: 106 min
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Color: Color
Awards: See below


Howard Stern is fond of calling this film YOUNG HITLER and says that it is almost as good as Smallville [the television series that depicts the teenage years of Superman]

Tongue and cheek aside, this is a dark film which depicts the relationship between a young Hitler and a Jewish art empressario, Max Hoffman.

I must say that I was very impressed by the acting job done by John Cusack. We are used to seeing him perform in light comedies. Here he shows that he is maturing into an actor whose range is broadening. His portrayal of the young, somewhat decadent, art dealer is very believable.

Newcomer Noah Taylor gives a very credible performance as the young corporal Hitler, a struggling, and not very talented, young artist who finds more acceptance in the world of fringe hysterical lost cause politics than he does in the world of serious art.

Yet Hoffman sees a potential in Hitler's manic art. Hoffman urges Hitler to put all his ideological energy into his art work and give up associations with anti-Communist fringe groups. After various unsuccessful attempts at getting Hoffman to display his work, Hitler shows him prototype drawings of a new highly technical super society, replete with symbols of power such as the swastika. Hoffman is taken with these drawings and sees them as the expression of a Germany frustrated both by it's failure to be a strong force in the world and it's shame at losing the Great War.

But ultimately Hitler falls in with a group of disaffected antisocial radicals whose major theme is "Jews are the misfortune of Germany." He is led to this group by his superior officers in the army. He has, after all, not left the army because, as he says, he has no where else to go. He finds his active expression more in speech making than in art. He finds that he has the power to move crowds, and this power gives him his sense of belonging.

I will not reveal the denoument of the film except to say that a chain of events that Hitler himself sets in motion leads to his movement from being an artist to his becoming an artistic politician and ultimately a fanatical politician. The rest is history as we sadly know.

Writer/Director Menno Meyjes has not made the young Hitler a sensitive or sympathetic person that we can feel sorry for. On the contrary, he has tried to present the political evolution of the future Fuehrer as an agitator and fascist who lets the opportunity of being a successful artist pass him by because of his jealousy of the "rich Jews".

The Between-the-Wars atmosphere of Germany is very well depicted as is the political blindness of Germany's Jews.

The film loses some of it's impact by making the audience strain to hear much of the dialog.

More can be said but I would recommend that you see the film and judge for yourself. This is already a controversial movie and it is doubtfull that Jewish Hollywood will give it much credibility.

KUDOS TO John Cusack, one of my fav actors, as Max Rothman
KUDOS TO Noah Taylor as Adolf Hitler; Noah has appeared in character roles in many films, including, Edge of Tomorrow, Predestination, Vanilla Sky and Shine. He also appears as Hitler in the TV series, PREACHER

Here are exerpts from Art Snob's insightfull September 26, 2002 review on the Internet Movie Database -
Brilliant, totally non-offensive treatment of difficult subject
Sight unseen, the Jewish Defense League has urged Lions Gate Films to shelve this movie, due to its radical notion that Adolf Hitler was shaped by the world around him rather than being born the Antichrist. Specifically, the JDL protests that there is nothing "human about the most vicious, vile murderer in world history." As a person of Jewish extraction who has seen the movie (at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival), I would take exception to this stance and urge Lions Gate to proceed as planned. This film is a brilliant, engrossing, thought-provoking work that does Hitler no favors and sheds light on the real-world forces afoot in post WWI Munich that only could have nurtured his worst beliefs and talents.
The title character of the film is a fictional (but based on a composite of real-life characters) Jewish German WWI vet named Max Rothman. He's lost one of his arms in battle, but is able to return to a much better situation than the average German vet: a loving wife and family, a gorgeous mistress, and family wealth that enables him to start an art gallery that prospers dealing in modern expressionist works. Hitler, by contrast, returns to pretty much nothing, and at age 30 is desperate to finally make the grade as a commercial artist.
Noah Taylor - who many feel got robbed of an Oscar nomination for his role as the young David Helfgott in SHINE - is mesmerizing in the Hitler role. Even made up to look gaunt, pallid, and thoroughly unappealing (although not freakish), you still can't take your eyes off of him. With body language, countenance, and tone of voice, he's able to suggest a raging intensity lurking just below the surface of his character's socially awkward loner exterior. Taylor still won't come up with any awards recognition for this role (it's WAY too hot a potato), but that doesn't change the fact that he's brilliantly conquered a daunting acting challenge.
Even though you KNOW which career path Hitler is ultimately going down, the equilibrium between the forces pulling him in both directions and the incredible `what might have been' fascination factor keep you thoroughly transfixed throughout the film's near-2-hour running time. NOBODY in the huge auditorium where I saw the film got up or stirred from the opening scene through to the supremely ironic ending - not even to answer the call of nature. MAX is sure not `the feel-good film of the year,' but if you've been longing for a powerful, all-encompassing drama that doesn't require you to check your brain at the door, this is the film you've been waiting for.

To help get this controversial movie financed, producer/star John Cusack took no salary for acting in the lead role.
Writer/director Menno Meyjes reports that before the script was written, Steven Spielberg's Amblin company was interested in the project. But Spielberg told Meyjes he couldn't bring himself to help make a movie he thought would dishonor Holocaust survivors. Nevertheless, he considered the script an excellent one and encouraged the director to push for its realization, but without Amblin.

The family gathers to listen to the reports of the Armistice Agreement Terms (November 1918) on a radio. However, broadcasting in Germany didn't start until 1923 and was strictly experimental and limited before that.
The cigarette lighter used by Max is a type that didn't exist until after WWII.
Amongst the drawings of Adolf Hitler's "future world" at the end of the film, there are at least two buildings (including the Volkshalle, which was never built) actually designed by Albert Speer, who did not meet Hitler until 1930.
The song "Happy Birthday to You" is sung at the party, but it did not appear in the form we know today until 1924.
There are two white IKEA floor paper lamps. IKEA was founded in 1943.
In the film, Hitler has a very light mustache outline. During the World War One period and immediately after, Adolf Hitler sported a traditional "handlebar"-type mustache. He adopted his trademark "comb" mustache shortly thereafter. In any event, all known photographs of Hitler as an adult show him with a mustache of some style.
When Max sees Adolf Hitler for the first time, he correctly calls him "Corporal". However, the uniform Hitler is wearing has no rank insignia. German Army uniforms in both world wars displayed NCO ranks on the collar.
When Captain Mayr invites Adolf Hitler to speak in front of the Nationalist Socialist Party, he mentions that they number "500 men or so". The party actually only had around 50 members at this time. Hitler was given the number 555 when he became a member simply because the numbering system started at 500.

Max Rothman: So you're an anti-Semite.
Adolf Hitler: On the contrary, I admire the Jews.
Max Rothman: Really?
Adolf Hitler: Yes, they're very intelligent people.
Max Rothman: Well, there are intelligent ones and not so intelligent ones...
Adolf Hitler: No, no, no, they're all intelligent because they guard the purity of their blood.
Max Rothman: The what?
Adolf Hitler: The purity of the blood. Because the secret of the Jews lies in their pure Jewish blood. That's why they're the mightiest counterpart to the Aryan rae.
Max Rothman: What's the secret?
Adolf Hitler: Is your mother Jewish?
Max Rothman: Why not ask whether she's a German? Isn't that a far more relevant question?
Adolf Hitler: Mensch! Of course your mom's Jewish.
Max Rothman: You're an awfully hard man to like, Hitler, but I'm gonna try, because if I've learned anything over the past four years, it's that we all shit the same, scream the same, and die the same.
Adolf Hitler: There's no need for vulgarity, Rothman.
Max Rothman: I know where you've been and God knows we've all been turned into assholes there. Now listen to me well: you may not think you're an anti-Semite, but in fact you are.
Adolf Hitler: I'm not.
Max Rothman: But in this, as in all things, there's a reason. Your own hero Nietzsche said anti-Semitism is the ideology of those who feel cheated.
Adolf Hitler: How do you know Nietzsche's my hero?
Max Rothman: Because you've obviously skimmed his ideas.
Adolf Hitler: Well, I don't feel cheated.
Max Rothman: Excellent. Then stop acting like it.
Max Rothman: I've heard these theories all my life: blood science, eugenics; it's rubbish. It's complete nonsense. Put it out of your mind. It's not modern. It's not scientific. It will hold you back as an artist.
Max Rothman: I've seen the future. Believe me, it came straight at us. There's no future in the future.
Adolf Hitler: Politics is the new art!

Soundtrack: Happy Birthday (uncredited) Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill


MPAA - Rated R for language
Australia:M Netherlands:12, Singapore:PG (re-rating), Singapore:NC-16 (original rating), United Kingdom:15, United States:R

Some paintings and pieces of art that contain some nudity are shown briefly.

A man is shown being brutally beaten by several men.
Another scene of a man being beaten. Afterwards, he is shown lying on the ground with a bloody head.

Several "f" bombs; several "shit"s.

Max chain smokes cigarettes throughout most of the movie.
Some casual drinking is shown.

See above

MAX (2002)

AFI Fest 2002
Nominee -
Grand Jury Prize Menno Meyjes

Genie Awards 2003
Winner -
Genie Best Achievement in Sound Editing -Fred Brennan, Roderick Deogrades, Barry Gilmore, Andy Malcolm, David McCallum, Jane Tattersall
Nominee -
Genie Best Achievement in Overall Sound - Lou Solakofski, Steph Carrier

Ivor Novello Awards 2002
Winner -
Ivor Novello Award - Best Original Film Score - Dan Jones

National Board of Review, USA 2002
Winner -
Special Recognition For excellence in filmmaking.

Political Film Society, USA 2003
Nominee -
PFS Award Democracy Exposé

Vancouver Film Critics Circle 2003
Nominee -
VFCC Award Best Supporting Actress - Canadian Film - Molly Parker

Read about Max On the Internet Movie Data Base

John Cusack ....  Max Rothman
Noah Taylor ....  Adolf Hitler
Leelee Sobieski ....  Liselore Von Peltz
Molly Parker (I) ....  Nina Rothman
Ulrich Thomsen ....  Captain Mayr
David Horovitch ....  Max's Father
Janet Suzman ....  Max's Mother
András Stohl ....  NCO
John Grillo (I) ....  Nina's Father
Anna Nygh ....  Nina's Mother
Krisztián Kolovratnik ....  Nina's Brother
Peter Capaldi ....  David Cohn
Yuliya Vysotskaya ....  Hildegard
János Kulka ....  Mr. Epp
Katalin Pálfy ....  Mrs. Epp

Return To The Reviews Index Page

Return To The Site Index Page

Email Shlomoh