Another problem is that the shifting viewpoints also prevent us from getting to know these characters, which means we don’t really care about them.  The most challenging plot point is the main one–Geismer’s enduring love for Lena.  Because she is so [BRIEF SPOILER HERE] thoroughly corrupt, we can’t understand why he loves her.  Geismer is warned, again and again, but he doesn’t believe it.  He didn’t even know that she was married, when they were together.  [END OF SPOILER]  So their relationship seems superficial, and Geismer far too naïve, for much credibility.  I also had a hard time with the fact that Geismer wanted to solve the mystery of Tully’s death.  He had already found Lena (several times), and Tully was an evil character.

The fact remains that although Soderbergh has created a 1940s film from a visual standpoint, he operates from a twenty-first century mindset.  As a result, The Good German has numerous (strong) profanities, some nudity and a very graphic sex scene–things that would never have been allowed back then.  It also lacks the moral certitude so inherent in film noir.  Intrigue is necessary, and it’s not a problem for the leading man to be a patsy.  But he still needs to be ethically and morally bound.  Here, we don’t admire Geismer for loving Lena or solving the mystery.  We just shake our heads in wonder.

It’s an impressive effort, from an artistic point of view, but one which will probably be most appreciated by film students–who can enjoy the technique–and the G.I. generation–who will be thrilled with the walk down memory lane.

AUDIENCE: Adults only

DVD EXTRAS: None

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Characters drink and smoke throughout film, including extensive close-ups of cigarettes, ashes and smoking.  In many scenes, cigarette smoking appears very glamorous.
  • Language/Profanity: Numerous obscenities, many of which are strong.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Upper female nudity; lengthy, graphic sex scene (without nudity) between a prostitute and client; various discussions about sex and prostitution, including two characters who are prostitutes.
  • Violence: Wartime violence including military officers who spy, shoot  and/or attack one another; brief rape scene after which one character kills another; man punches woman in stomach; various scenes in which main character is viciously beaten.