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Electric_blues (electric_review) wrote,
@ 2004-03-30 23:40:00
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    Apt Pupil (1998)
    "Tell me everything. Tell me all the things they won't tell us in school". This chilling line serves as a starting point for a masterfully woven tale of corruption set in suburban America. Directed by Brian Singer (The Usual Suspects, Xmen, X2) and based on the novella by Stephen King, Apt Pupil takes us down the long, dark corridor of insanity as seen through the eyes of the "all-American kid", Todd Bowden (Brad Renfroe) as he discovers the horrors of Nazi deathcamps as told by a man calling himself Arther Denker (Ian McKellan), a Nazi war criminal in hiding.

    At forst, we believe that Todd Bowden is the one manipulating Denker, but we soonm discover that through Bowden's petty panipulations, Denker is slowly corrupting the boy. We see that as Denker is blackmailed into telling tales of his past exploits, some sleeping beast awakens inside him, and the more Bowden hears, the more that same darkness swallows him up.

    This film pulls no punches. Unlike many other films depicting Nazis as the personification of evil, this film shows that the Nazi was capeable of being charming, deceptively charming, disarming even. In one particularly chilling scene, Denker is sharing a family dinner with the Bowdens and when asked what he did during the war, comes up with a very believable story about how he worked in a laundry "Thank God", he says. Denker even goes so far as to con Todd Bowden's Guidance Counsellor.

    Denker is, in essence, two characters, the almost pleasant public person, and the private monster who recalls with glee what happened once when there was a leak in the pipes for the gas chambers. In one scene, you see him laughing and complimenting the bowdens on their meal, the next, he is tossing a cat into an oven with all the sadistic glee of a complete lunatic.

    But that is the point. That is the purpose. Nazism was insane, but it captivated many people and still does to this day. The opening question of the film 'Why did so many do nothing" is answered to a degree. The nazis were not merely brutish, they were cunning blackmailers. Fear is why so many did nothing, not just fear of their lives, but fear of losing their good name, credibility, what have you.

    Brilliant directing, masterful performances and a compelling story make this a hard film to miss. Though it did poorly at the box office and is unusually hard to find on DVD, I highly recommend you give it a chance, even if just a rental. Give it a chance and pay attention to what you're being told.


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