Schlöndorff and Jean-Claude Carrière find in Michel Tournier's novel a companion piece to their earlier Günter Grass adaptation, The Tin Drum. The focus is again on a highly peculiar individual set on ignoring the onslaught of history, this time by remaining in a world of magical forests, loving animals, innocent children, despite accumulating evidence that life is providing something altogether opposite. Malkovich, wearing the creepiest pair of specs in movie history, is successively an unjustly convicted child molester, a PoW, a flunky at Goering's hunting lodge, and finally a hooded horseman combing the countryside for suitably Aryan youths to enroll in the SS academy: the catcher in the rye turned into the big bad wolf, or, from another viewpoint, Buñuel's Nazarin let loose in the Third Reich. As in The Tin Drum, the director shapes individual scenes so powerfully (cameraman Bruno De Keyser, composer Michael Nyman) that the abstractions we should presumably be inferring seem piffling alongside such muscularly rendered specifics: this snorting stag, that dead child.
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