Wednesday night, the Museum of Jewish Heritage hosted the premiere of Good–another holiday season WWII drama starring Viggo Mortensen as John Halder (a German professor in the 1930s who is trying to be “good” despite societal pressures) and Jason Isaacs, who plays Mr. Mortensen’s best friend Maurice, who is Jewish, in the film.
We spoke with Good director Vicente Amorim on the red carpet about the recent rash of films with a 1930’s German theme, and whether or not he felt Mr. Mortensen was under any competition from other leading men in those movies–like, say, Valkyrie‘s Tom Cruise. (Good is one of four Oscar season movies that reference the Holocaust in some way: The Weinstein Company’s The Reader starring Kate Winslet opens today; Valkyrie opens Dec. 26; and on New Year’s Eve, Paramount Vantage releases Defiance, starring Daniel Craig.)
“Yeah,” said Mr. Amorim, smiling and nodding. “Well… I do think it’s good for all the movies because it’ll show different aspects of the same reality–I mean, without making judgment values because I actually haven’t seen any of the other films. And actually, when we started prepping this, we got called into a meeting into the office and people were saying, ‘There are so many Holocaust movies being made!’ and I said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, of course not.’ and then, ha-ha, of course there were.”
We asked him if he understood why.
“It was in the zeitgeist. I think it has a lot to do with what was happening in this country before Election Day.” He was wearing jeans and sneakers and kept shifting back and forth. He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I mean it’s never been completely forgotten, but i think it has a lot to do with what was happening in this country at the time.”
So is his film a deliberate political statement?
“Absolutely. Every film is political.”
Mr. Mortensen also dismissed the idea that there was a glut of Holocaust-themed films. “Most, if not all, of the other Holocaust movies are different in several ways,” he said. Mr. Mortensen was wearing a tailored gray suit and had shoulder-length salt-and-pepper hair. “One, they have a lot more money to promote their movies–some people have said, ‘Jeez, you got a bad deal because you have to compete with all these movies from the same time period.’ I say no because this movie’s quite different.”
Mr. Mortensen added: “There’s no big heroic moment at the end. There’s no big tragic moment at the end. There’s no real villain. It’s not about Hitler in general. You don’t know where John Halder’s goin’ to go. You don’t know what’s going to happen to his family. And you don’t know what’s going to happen at the end–you’re not off the hook.”
He spoke very softly for the volume of the room and made slight, understated hand gestures. He took a deep breath. “I’ve spoken with people in other countries where [the film has] been shown and it’s been interesting … and they’re not saying they don’t like the movie but at a certain point they’ll say, ‘No, I’m not buyin it, I don’t like it, you lost me there. …’ And they’re so strong when they’re talking about it.” He laughed and looked at us. “‘Well, maybe,’ I’ll say, ‘but it’s unavoidable that you did relate.’ People completely dismiss that! And its not like it’s incredible, the turn of events, it’s just uncomfortable. And I’ve talked with some people and they say, ‘I wouldn’t think i would go that far …'”
He tried to finish his sentence but his publicist cut him off.