This is my first post for Man, I Love Films, so maybe there should be some sort of introduction. But I just got hit with jury duty, and who has time? I’m Thaddeus, I have almost 300 film posts at my site, Net-flixation, and each one is perfect like a snowflake so go there and read them. Let’s move along.
Films that are fake-documentaries can be difficult for the audience. If they’re not explicit mockumentaries like Fear of a Black Hat or Spinal Tap, it’s hard for the audience to recognize humor when the actors play it straight. It’s even more complicated when the fictional-doc has a dead-serious storyline, but isn’t a horror/thriller like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
Which brings us to Brooklyn for last Saturday’s IndieScreen release of One Hundred Years of Evil, a funny, cleverly-crafted faux-documentary about an unusual concept: what if Hitler faked his death and emigrated to the US in 1946?
The amazing thing is that I saw a focused movie that acted as a dry comedy/narrative doc – and it was engaging as well as funny. If this picture were filmed poorly, if the story and acting were worse, or had poor humor, 100 Years of Evil could have been an indie disaster.
The opening of the film establishes everything nicely. The credit sequence is simple, pretty, and very inventive; it’s been a while since I was so impressed. As basic shapes and colors turn into a kaleidoscope of jigsaw-pieces, you’re made to understand what this pic is about.
The main themes are present throughout: truth, lies, and what it means to hold o hunt them. The film opens with real historical footage of famous deceptions – Colin Powell’s presentation on Iraq’s WMDs, Bill Clinton denying his affair with Lewinksy stridently, and Adolf Hitler during one of his fiery speeches.
One Hundred Years of Evil, as a fictitious documentary, follows the intro with a simple shot of Skule, a grad student at Gothenburg University in Sweden. This student has been very successful in his field, detecting lies by observing facial expressions.
Skule goes on to explain his latest thesis: watching interviews with the men guarding Hitler, he suspects that they lied about the Nazi leader’s suicide. After some research, he learned that the Allies detained hundreds of Hitler look-alikes; eventually, these men were transported to the US, then released. Now, our intrepid Swede will travel to the States to try to uncover the truth.
As with most fictitious documentaries, the movie becomes as much about the characters’ journey as it is about the premise they’re investigating. The documentary style employed is very effective here. You get the sense that you’re following a well-meaning genius/screwup as he traces a secret event of apocalyptic importance.
The seriousness of the premise conflicts neatly with the mundane results. Had a post-war Hitler been unleashed on the United States, you can imagine the sort of lethal, grim consequences that could occur. But how can you envision the way an Austrian miscreant could satisfy his whims when they’re both brutal and artistic, maniacal and calculated?
I had a great time, and I don’t think it was because I did not expect this to be such a funny film. I liked the story and the film’s use (and manipulation) of historical footage. I liked the entire cast, especially Jon Rekdal III’s skilled performance as the sympathetic/crazy Skule. And I loved the narration, both for content and the fact that the voice sounds a lot like The Most Interesting Man in the World.
Erik Eger and Magnus Oliv direct a movie that plays its premise and thesis beautifully. This picture does a great job of looking like the narrative moments were shot by a grad-level cameraman; beautiful scenes combine with excellent composition (the sunset shot is especially pretty), and the camera itself is a character with its own personality. The directors co-wrote with Joacim Starander and Olly Blackburn, and they conceived a smart picture.
I want more time to praise everyone involved – and not just because I met about 5 or 6 of them. I’m inspired, since the film is strong in so many elements. If I have to pick one extra person to credit , it would be Allison McCrudden’s work as makeup artist. It’s rare for me to praise this sort of element in a movie that isn’t wall-to-wall special (and unusual) effects.
When we meet a man who’s supposed to be very old and in terrible condition, he does look tremendously old and frail. The same holds true when two characters are caught in the aftermath of a building collapse: the actors’ faces are covered in dust and debris. McCrudden’s subtle and realistic work helps to sell the moment nicely. It keeps you from losing your suspension of disbelief, which is critical to enjoying a motion picture.
OYoE only lags a little, and only on occasion. Still, I was most impressed that it never loses sight of its premise, themes, or characters, even as it adds a present-day storyline to what is essentially a look into the past. It’s a shame the film will only play at IndieScreen through the 25th of this month, but it’s available through ITunes and YouTube.
I’m stunned by some of the reviews I read. As an indie venture, OYoE shows more intelligence and credibility than Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face or The Center of the World. I assume many reviewers did not understand that this movie has a great wit, and that the audience is meant to laugh at the same material that the actors present so seriously. In my theater, the audience responded to every single joke. During a post-screening conversation with the humble film-makers and cast, it was clear that none of it was unintentional comedy.
This motion picture was submitted for review to Man, I Love Films. Any filmmaker that would like their picture to be reviewed by the site should contact Dylan Fields (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kai Parker (email@example.com) with details about their picture and how they will send in their submission.