Last night we watched The Good German on DVD. An odd experience.
It’s in black-and-white, which isn’t so unusual, but it’s also in 4:3 ratio, which hasn’t been used for films since the 50’s. It seems to be an exercise in trying to make a film that looks as though it was filmed in the 1940’s, so it utilizes back projections rather than green screen, has very static camerawork save for the occasional zoom, and everyone smokes all the time with half their face lost in shadow. Whilst gazing meaningfully into the far distance.
Which makes the modern aspects of the film so instrusive. There’s bonking and swearing and the sets are more extensive than anything you’d find in a 1940’s movie.
It had a pretty involved and involving story, but to be honest I missed most of it because so many of the shots were so beautifully lit I stopped listening to what the actors were saying. Which isn’t necessarily a sign of good direction. It was almost fetishising the cinematography at the expense of the storytelling; rather like the Doctor Who story The Leisure Hive. And at the end, where the film starts reproducing Casablanca shot-for-shot, you have to aks – why?
There’s an expression which goes ‘a good actor is never miscast’; bearing that in mind, Tobey Maguire was miscast as a shifty, creepy, arrogant young soldier, as he doesn’t seem to have any of those adjectives in his repertoire.
In the end, it felt as though the director had wanted to do a film ‘noir’ and cast around for a pre-existing script – because the style he adopted doesn’t serve the material. There’s no reason why this film had to look ‘1940’s except in a vain attempt to show off and draw the attention of award committees.