Sunday, November 26, 2017

Brainwashed (1960)

Original title: Schachnovelle

Director: Gerd Oswald

Writers: Stefan Zweig, Harold Medford, Gerd Oswald, Herbert Reinecker

Composer: Hans-Martin Majewski

Starring: Curd Jurgens, Claire Bloom, Hansjorg Felmy, Mario Adorf, Albert Bessler, Rudolf Forster, Alan Gifford, Jan Hendriks, Albert Lieven, Harald Maresch, Dietmar Schonherr, Karel Stepanek, Wolfgang Wahl, Hans Sohnker

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Journey into today's strangest zone of fear!

Plot:  In 1938 Austria shortly after the Nazi occupation, a prominent Viennese intellectual, Werner von Basil, is arrested for smuggling art treatures out of the country and imprisoned by the Gestapo in a hotel room without any mental sustenance of any kind to break him down to make him talk while a young ballerina, named Irene Adreny whom is the lover of the SS officer Berger playing mind games on von Basil, tries to intervene and help the poor intellectual keep his mind intact.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, I've been on a role lately with picking really good pictures.  Curd Jurgens is an acting master in this flick.  He owns it.  The film opens casually enough with world chess champion Mirko Centowic (Adorf) boarding a cruise ship and settling in.  Then a very distraught Werner von Basil (Jurgens) comes aboard. Centowic is a prima donna who only accepts a game of chess with a small group of admirers only because they agree to pay his exorbatant fee.  When the game is nearing the end, von Basil suggests to Centowic's opponent a different strategy which ends the match in a draw.  Centowic is most impressed, asks the soft-spoken von Basil his name.  von Basil picks up a pawn piece and gently holds moves it around in his fingers as he stares at it in small wonder.  Centowic asks why he hadn't heard of him before and how long has he been playing.  von Basil replies apologetically, "Nowhere.  I've never played before."  BAM!  How about that opener?

From here we flash back a few months (we're not certain and it's not made clear but by the time you get to the end you suspect it could've been a year or more) to the day the Nazis invaded Austria.  Seeing Jurgens all tuxed up and elegant is quite a change from where we just saw him.  I've seen him in a lot of films and this is my new favorite performance of his.  PLEASE let me know of any Jurgens movies I should see based on his performance.  I like him before this but now I love this guy's work.  Once he is detained by the Gestapo the film goes into darker and more isolated territory as this is what is happening to von Basil.  A lot of time is spent in a small room.  The passage of time is nicely done as the filmmaker's aren't holding your hand.  It's implied in very subtle ways.  The ending is good although it's not as strong as I was hoping for considering what came before it but I loved Mario Adorf's performance in the final minutes when FINALLY his character drops the pretense and shows that he's more than the silly facade he'd created.  That was a great moment.  I'm definitely going to see this one again.

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