Is Art Mightier Than War?
John Cusack on Hitler, politics and his new movie 'Max.'
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You put your schedule on hold until you could make this movie. Why was this movie so important to you?
So many reasons. First of all, this notion that Hitler's only original idea was this fusion of art and politics. He saw that the future was going to be a fusion of these two forces. He despised the content of left-wing aesthetics, the art of the avant-garde, but the form he found remarkably powerful. He understood that, in the modern world, whoever controls images and symbols has the power. He understood that art reaches people's subconcious, and that battles will be fought on the spiritual plane of art for people's souls.
This is as relevant today. What was started then, we can never go back from. Look at the Taliban destroying those Buddhist statues -- destroying them not because there's buried treasure under there, but because the symbols have power. The reason bin Laden staggered the planes going into the towers was so every camera would be focused on the second tower when the plane hit. It was not only the murder, but the perpetual image of the horror that permeated into people's consciousness. It was not the murder itself, but the iconography of the murder. Somewhere on the Al-Jazeera network, someone chanting "blood Jew" to some frightening images. And right now the propaganda machine is gearing us up toward war. Every time I hear the "Showdown With Saddam" theme music, I get chills.
"Max" portrays Hitler as a struggling artist, just as he's taking up politics. The movie has caught some flak for humanizing Hitler.
That's exactly [the response] Hitler would have wanted. The best thing he could have imagined was to be some pan-Germanic mythological figure, instead of the liar and coward and thief that he was.
The movie portrays Hitler as a very recognizable, modern type.
He was so modern, in that he was obsessed with being famous. He was caught up with this modern rush to be have achieved greatness before turning 30. It's such a sad, modern kind of thing.
The movie is really about these two men returned from war, and how the 20th century could have been the century of Max, instead of the century of Hitler.