The Empty Mirror

on May 07, 1999 by Francesca Dinglasan
   Dramatic monologue, fragmented conversations and surreal images, interspersed with Nazi propaganda and Holocaust film footage, are the various vehicles used to depict the speculative self-analysis of Hitler (Norman Rodway) in "The Empty Mirror." Transpiring post-World War II after Germany's defeat the film postulates how the Fuhrer might have contemplated his life, actions and place in history. Set against a minimalist and purposely vague backdrop, which appears to be an underground bunker (inside the dark recesses of a madman's mind? The caverns of hell?), Hitler spends most of his time dictating his memoirs to a Nazi typist (Doug McKeon) and scrutinizing old film reels that document his ascent to power. He also engages in discussions about the past with ghost-like visitors which include key Nazi players Hermann Goehring (Glen Shadix) and Joseph Goebbels (Joel Grey), his infamous mistress Eva Braun (Camilla Soeberg), and Jewish psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (Peter Michael Goetz).
   Although intriguing in concept and ambitious in its goal, the screenplay is unable to effectively deliver on its initial promise to delve deep into the inner workings of Hitler's psyche. Not an easy task, granted, to explore the reasoning behind the insanity of the 20th century's most notorious figure. The film approaches this difficult task by having Hitler rattle off, in Joycean stream-of-consciousness fashion, his version of historic facts ("5.7 million Jews were killed, not 6 million. History prefers round numbers"). However, is it Hitler's self-evaluation that comes across on-screen, or is it a well-versed student of Hitler mythology and history presenting what he/she thinks Hitler would say? The film is littered with enough interdisciplinary comparisons--the power of Wagner's musical compositions, the architectural lines of Nazi formations, psychoanalytical interpretations of Hitler's megalomania--to warrant argument for the latter.
   Ultimately, "The Empty Mirror's" Hitler emerges as an incensed editor. With manic fervor, he edits his book-in-progress, film footage, German history and, of course, the Jewish presence throughout Europe. However, editing is an essential element missing from the film itself, which, at 117 minutes, makes for an overbearingly long soliloquy.    Starring Norman Rodway, Camilla Soeberg, Peter Michael Goetz, Doug McKeon, Glenn Shadix and Joel Grey. Directed by Barry J. Hershey. Written by R. Buckingham and Barry J. Hershey. Produced by David D. Johnson, M. Jay Roach and William Dance. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 117 min.
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