DVD Video - Reviews [Mother Night (Special Edition)]
ORIGINAL FULL DVD REVIEW
Release Date: 7/11/00
Studio: New Line
Run Time: 113 minutes
Starring: Nick Nolte, John Goodman, Sheryl Lee, Alan Arkin, Kirstin Dunst
Directed by: Keith Gordon
Movie Summary: [Drama]
American playwright Howard W. Campbell Jr. (Nick Nolte), as an Allied spy within the Nazi Party, becomes a notorious spokesman for the Nazis' anti-American and anti-Semitic agenda. When the war is over, Campbell's living hell unfolds as Nazi haters and sympathizers confront him and he struggles with his shocking past--is he a hero, a villain, or both?
Widescreen: 1.85:1, Pan & Scan, Color, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround, Subtitles: English, Region 1
atriots gather ‘round. Remember the last time delusions of grandeur elevated your self-esteem to new heights? Yes, those moments where your heroism protected the lives of your countrymen and women and further strengthened our devotion to maintaining our freedom and guaranteeing better lives for our posterity. Amidst such joyous contemplation, it’s highly likely one ignores previous examples of heroism and at what cost such events came to be. And why not ... such details are significantly less romantic.
Mother Night, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., probes the event of serving one’s country above and beyond the call of duty. But it’s the circumstances of which how this duty was served and the fine print of the agreement between an unlikely hero and the US government that makes for an interesting story under the given contingencies. Howard Campbell Jr. [Nick Nolte] is a famous German playwright originally brought to the country from the US by his parents at a young age. It is after his fortunate career success and uprising in social prestige that a Major from the US military approaches him with a proposition right around the time Hitler had begun to put his plans for initial European domination and religious cleansing into action beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939. Taking advantage of what remaining US loyalty this admired and well standing playwright had, Major Frank Wirtanen [John Goodman] proposes that Campbell strategically position himself in the Nazi party masquerading as a spy for the United States. Campbell perceives this offer as his chance to live amongst the fabulous fictitious anecdotes spawned of his own mind rather than merely being the one to write them on paper. He immediately finds the idea fascinating. But it wouldn’t be long after the war expires and the last Nazi secret is divulged to the American military that Howard finds not only has he lost his wife to the war, he himself is one of the most hated Nazi propagandists still walking amongst the living, despised by the country that is his true heritage for his patriotic betrayal and advocator of mass murder, sought after by Israel for his crimes against humanity, and ignored by a government that refuses to admit knowledge of their original agreement. In parallel with what transpires throughout this film, we are forced to evaluate the moral obligations one has to determine one’s level of responsibility for their actions despite the hidden circumstances that lie below the surface level.
Mother Night is as interesting as it is eccentric at times. The script is as strong as it is scattered. Moments seizing to depict the worst of human despair are as rich in sadness as those that are plentiful in their absurdity. Viewers with a strong interest in the repercussions of the second World War will most like this film. Others who can not grasp and take interest in the uniqueness of one man’s luckless situation may find moments dragging.
This DVD is not lacking audibly or visually. Both of these factors in the transfer are on par with what is expected of the format. The budget of this film was unlikely very extensive and interprets this way in the final presentation on DVD. While the audio is delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1, there is little in this movie that offers much diversity in the way of audio delivery. There are no fantastic war scenes nor impressive fly-bys as the only element that leads one to believe there is an actual war going on in the background of this story is a short scene depicting the fear of civilians as they seek shelter from the distant artillery explosions.
Mother Night is packed full of its share of goodies. From the get-go, one has the option to listen to two different audio commentaries. One is with Director Keith Gordon [Waking the Dead] and writer Robert Weide. Gordon is very interesting to listen to as his lively and excited approach to sharing his ideas and knowledge of the story and general film production keep the listener entertained. He never seems without words. Definitely a director to keep one’s eye on as his career progresses. The other is with leading actor Nick Nolte [48 Hours, Affliction, Down and Out Beverly Hills] recorded at his home in March of 2000. This audio commentary is more a combination of thoughts regarding the film, his philosophies with acting, relationships, etc. edited together to form the commentary. Next on the list of features is a section designated to seven deleted scenes and an early trailer. Each scene can be viewed with or without commentary with Director Keith Gordon. Included as another feature is an interview with Kurt Vonnegut and Nick Nolte sitting down between the filming of scenes during production. Both discuss the moral dilemma the main character is faced with, how Nolte interprets his understanding of the written character into his onscreen portrayal, and how the events of this story play themselves out in our lives every day on a smaller level. Excerpts of television footage from the actual Eichmann (a captured Nazi criminal) trial are also included here in a manner that is fashioned much like other American propaganda of the time. Aside from the standard Cast and Crew feature (of which contains a trailer for New Line’s Simpatico with Nick Nolte), there is a brief series of biographies for famous Nazi party members in a section entitled ‘Historical Biographies’ complete with photographs and indication of how the individual related to the film. Mother Night’s theatrical trailer finishes off this list of special features.
The menu system, like many of New Line’s releases, is plain in functionality without the flashy animation or background audio.
Any fan of the film or the director and his work would appreciate the content that has been put into this disc. There’s much more here than one would expect a low budget film of this sort to receive in its release to DVD. But New Line surprises us with a well-rounded list of features that make this DVD a perfect fit for those with an interest in adding this film to their collection.