Based off of a Stephen King Novella, Apt Pupil tells the story of a sixteen-year-old boy genius who has an infatuation with deadly arts. Not only an infatuation, but this young “protagonist” finds a Kurt Dussander living in his neck of the woods. This Dussander is a former SS soldier, responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. So when the golden boy Todd Bowden discovers this horrific knowledge by his own research, he stalks the war criminal. At the right time he approaches Kurt and takes the aging Nazi under his sway by threatening to expose him to the Israelis.
What Todd wants is the old man’s secrets. He wants to know what it was like killing helpless minorities in gas chambers, dozens at a time. Todd wants to know the ecstasy of committing genocide. This is something that Kurt Dussander can offer the young man, but not on Todd’s terms.
From the time spent with Dussander, Todd begins to visualize and dream about the Nazi death camps. These night-terrors begin to affect his school work and soon the boy is contemplating on turning in his pet war criminal if his parents discover his fall from
being number one in class to being a mere D-student screw ball. Kurt Dussander would not let this snob get away with something like that.
No, with Kurt’s manipulation, after spreading a false rumor to the guidance counselor, Todd is forced to study and become the starring pupil he once was in high school. If not, and Dussander was exposed, Todd would be at the mercy of whatever his pet war criminal confided to the press. How Todd was eager to learn every aspect of murder, how he wanted to “know what it was like.” How this slander could ultimately bring Todd to court when Dussander is on trial. “And besides, lying to judges and reporters isn’t as easy as you think. You’d have to be brilliant! Can you do that? I know I can,” explains the manipulative SS veteran. With the boy totally under Dussander’s oppression, a final test is initiated.
The test will involve action in the bowls of a dark cellar, not too different from the chambers in concentration camps. Where the fate of a wounded homeless man will be decided by the Nazi-absorbed boy wonder.
This flick gets a five out of five stars on my scale. The dramatic episodes are suspenseful and clever. The plot builds into a complexity of manipulation performed by both characters. It also paints a portrait of evil men. One an old Nazi war criminal, the other a bright young student living in the middle of the suburbs.
American History X
Another flick that takes place in a racially tense suburb is American History X. This film portrays the life of two brothers who are members to a Neo-Nazi gang. The youngest is ordered by the principal to write an essay for his history class after being condemned for writing a book report on Mein Kumpf.
The movie proceeds with the older brother’s release from prison after murdering an African-American. A montage of story-telling and reunited episodes proceeds. Bigger Brother explains the hardships he has taken up a not too pleasant orifice during his time with the Aryan Brotherhood in prison.
This is followed by the friendship he formed with a young African-American serving a much longer term for “resisting” arrest. The film overall is descent, but a little too artsy for my taste. The flash back scenes, and they take up half the movie, were in black and white combined with a melodramatic sound-track. But I can forgive all that due to the tragic Shakespearean death of younger brother.
A good thing about this film is that it illustrates the motivation behind racial prejudice. A lot of skinheads became who they are through mixing with a rising immigrant population. The supposed extra competition in the work-force leads to feelings of resentment. Then there is dealing with street gangs and a lot of whites in the film join up with NeoNazis to feel safe and secure. And then there are the simple prejudices that patriarchal figures bestow upon their flock. These are not excuses for the supremacists, but understanding the heart of racism is one step to prevent it.
Another mind blowing flick with one hell of a dreadful finally is The Believer. Though this movie is also about the prejudice of a NeoNazi, the twist is that he’s born a Jew. No one ever imagined a self-hating Jew to go to such extremes, but this film portrays the hate-ridden skinhead in a masterful performance.
Not only does the protagonist commit hate crimes with thug-gangs, but eventually he becomes a leading spokesman for a fascist movement. Passionate and fiery with speeches on racial supremacy, he has the makings of a young Austrian politician. Though, Danny has his own dilemmas to work out before becoming the next Amerikan Furher. A conflict with his mind. Dealing with his religion. Not wanting to be a Jew, but not knowing what else to be. Then his girlfriend comes into the mix, as girlfriends often do. She wants nothing more than to embrace his sense of infatuating hatred for Judaism. To destroy it by embracing it.
In the end, Danny is someone who can never accept who he is. He hates the weakness he sees in Jewish holocaust survivors and he can never understand the worship of nothingness without end. Yet he is obsessed with the tradition. By the films end, he gets nothingness without end.
Before Russell Crowe was a gladiator in a Roman arena or master and commander on the far side of the world, he was a NeoNazi gang leader in Romper Stomper. This film portrays the chaotic life of skinheads in Australia. As illustrated within the opening scene, these hooligans beat up on Vietnamese immigrants trying to make a living under the Queen’s flag.
This is definitely one of Crowe’s greatest performances as a menacing tyrant bent on violence. His words are chilling when he says, “This is not your country.” Of course, a troubled young woman comes into the picture and suddenly the gang is harboring a seizure-prone woman who eventually betrays them when she’s dumped like a bag of bricks.
Only to be scooped back up by one of the lead henchmen who has no knowledge of her betrayal. This inevitably leads to a conflict with the love-trio, and though I don’t care much for love triangles, I thought that it fit this movie very well. Littered with action, violence, and just pure anarchy, this film is entertaining as well as culturally relevant to kids living on the edge of the abyss. Ironically the demise of the remaining Neos are witnessed by Asian tourists.