Saturday Matinee: Mother Night

Helps us see that there is no escaping the burdens of living in a political world.

Film Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Source: Spirituality and Practice

There is no escaping the burdens of living in a political world nor is it possible to duck our obligation to take responsibility for what we do. These two moral points are at the hub of Keith Gordon’s riveting screen adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 novel Mother Night.

In 1961, Howard Campbell (Nick Nolte), an American, finds himself in an Israeli prison where he is ordered to write his memoirs before standing trial as a war criminal.

He recalls his life in Germany and his success as a playwright. During the rise of Hitler, Campbell and his wife try to ignore what is happening and live in their own “nation of two.”

Then Col. Frank Wirtanen (John Goodman) plays upon Campbell’s ego and convinces him to become a secret agent while posing as a Nazi sympathizer. Campbell’s virulent radio broadcasts against the Jews and the Allies win him fame in Germany and hatred abroad.

After the war is over, he moves to Greenwich Village alone; his wife has died during the war. Campbell doesn’t know whether to view himself as a hero or a villain. Meanwhile, he is pursued by two Russian spies (Alan Arkin and Sheryl Lee) and some neo-Nazis.

The screenplay by Robert B. Weide draws out the moral conundrums in Vonnegut’s thought-provoking novel about good and evil, role-playing, and conscience.


Watch Mother Night on Hoopla here:

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