Mother Night

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: -1

Sitting in an Israeli prison for war criminals, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte) begins his memoirs in this drama based on a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. As a boy, Howard moves with his American family to Germany, where he becomes a successful playwright and marries a German actress. During the war Howard is recruited by Major Whitanen (John Goodman) to be an American spy. Howard writes and reads radio propaganda speeches from Germany supporting the Nazis' views, but they also contain codes for American agents. The most important thing for Howard is his love for his wife, Helga (Sheryl Lee), but she's killed while entertaining troops at the Russian front. After the war, Howard is despised for his propaganda work, but his identity as a spy can't be revealed. Almost forgotten in a New York slum apartment, his past is brought to light by a worshipful white supremacist group. But a bigger surprise is in store for Howard. Intriguing flashbacks interrupted by conversations with another prisoner and guards pull viewers into this story and hold them until the end. While there are moments of humor, this study of motives and character causes more thought than laughs.

Howard's anti-Jewish broadcasts reflect the views of German leadership during the war, although he doesn't hold the same beliefs. Sadly, the white supremacist group carries the name “White Christian Minutemen” and one leader talks about writing a book proving Jesus was not a Jew. Another member in a clerical collar is introduced as a Methodist minister. Equating Christians with racist organizations appears to be a not-so-subtle bashing of religious groups. Wartime violence includes bodies hanging at Auschwitz and a wagon of dead bodies going by, while a man hits and kicks Howard. More disturbing are three scenes of suicidal thoughts and acts as characters find they have no reason to live. One scene with a married couple includes breast nudity and sensual kissing. Another couple is seen in bed with sex implied. Although MOTHER NIGHT is a thought-provoking film, the inclusion of profanity, nudity and anti-religious views are unfortunate.

Preview Reviewer: Paul Bicking
Fine Line Features, 888 7th Ave., 20th Floor, New York, NY 10106

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several (6) times All Mild

Obscene Language: Once (no f- or s-words)

Profanity: Many (10) times Regular 6 (G-d 3, G 3), Exclamatory 4

Violence: Several times, Moderate (silhouette of father hitting son, hit with rifle stock, man pushed out of jeep, man beaten; hanging bodies, burned bodies, dead body by wrecked car)

Sex: Implied few times with married couple in bed

Nudity: Once, breast nudity

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Sensual kissing, one man tells another he needs a woman

Drugs: Smoking, alcohol drinking

Other: Suicide thoughts indicated by pointing gun at self, suicide by poison, suicide by hanging (off-screen); racist group uses Christian name, reference to book title Christ was not a Jew, anti-Semitic views portrayed

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Adults

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