Synopsis

In the wake of his rise to power, Adolf Hitler became known as perhaps the most villainous and destructive political leader of the 20th century. But what was he like before he formed the Nazi party? Screenwriter and director Menno Meyjes explores that question in this drama, a work of fiction keyed to the fact that Hitler unsuccessfully pursued a career as an artist following World War I. In 1918, Max Rothman (John Cusack) is a former artist who lost an arm during the war. While Max can no longer create, his eye for talent is as keen as ever, so he has become a successful art dealer, specializing in Modernists such as George Grosz. Max's success has brought him a fine home and a beautiful wife, Nina (Molly Parker); he's also acquired a mistress, Liselore (Leelee Sobieski), a lovely young woman with artistic aspirations of her own. One day, Max meets Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), an emotionally intense, fellow war veteran who has found himself penniless in Munich. Adolf fancies himself an artist, and while Max isn't especially impressed with his technique, he sees in him a burning passion and a desire to communicate, so he encourages Adolf to express his demons through his art. While Adolf takes Max's advice to heart and strikes up a friendship with him, Max's friends find Adolf's open advocation of anti-Semitism rather troubling; Max, who is Jewish, simply chalks Adolf's attitudes up to unpleasant wartime experiences. But as Adolf immerses himself more deeply into his political interests and his thoughts on social engineering, he begins to leave painting behind in favor of a more interesting art form, the political arena. Max marked the first directorial effort of noted screenwriter Meyjes. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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