Courtesy Photo
* star 119 minutes | Unrated
Opened: Friday, May 14, 1999
Written & directed by Barry Hershey

Starring Norman Rodway, Joel Grey, Camilla Soegerg, Glenn Shadix & Peter Michael Goetz

This movie received a dishonorable mention in the Worst of 1999 list.
Hitler dictates memoirs, chews scenery in surreal what-if art film

By Rob Blackwelder

A surrealistic, detached from real time, what-if fantasy in which Adolf Hitler madly dictates his memoirs while holed up in his infamous bunker after World War II, "The Empty Mirror" is one of those art house films so impressed with itself and brimming with pretension that it's difficult to sit through at all, let alone take it even half as seriously as it takes itself.

Veteran British actor Norman Rodway stars as the mad dictator, goose-stepping around a minimalist sound stage while Nazi propaganda films are projected in the background, devouring scenery with rabid pontifications about his philosophy and his legacy (sample dialogue: "The Jews take their disintegration so personally!")

Relentlessly verbose to the point that after the first hour it's hard not to tune the guy out from boredom, this wildly over-acted Hitler caricature imagines conversations with apparitions of his underlings Joseph Goebbels (Joel Grey) and Hermann Goering (Glenn Shadix), a fantasy babe version of lover Eva Braun (Camilla Soeberg) -- hey, if you're having delusions of grandeur, your girlfriend might as well be a 10 -- and even Sigmund Frued (Peter Michael Goetz), who, of course, was Jewish. Oh, I get it! Irony!

Written and directed by feature freshman Barry Hershey with a kind of ostensibly penetrating dialogue and self-congratulatory symbolism designed to allow him to dismiss detractors by sniffing that they just didn't get it, "The Empty Mirror" is an fascinating idea taken to a ridiculous extreme. Insultingly exaggerated metaphors swarm every scene (Oooo! Hitler paints a self-portrait without eyes! What could it mean?) and the stream-of-consciousness soliloquies pause only long enough to throw in high-concept visual sequences -- walls exploding with blood, etc.

Powerful, Wagner-inspired visuals and an occasional sense of humor give "The Empty Mirror" a good start, but Hershey seems to have come from the Oliver Stone school of subtlety in his directorial style. Every bit as self-indulgent as his subject, the director flogs to death every concept and symbol he puts forth. He's convinced himself he's being visionary, when in fact he's just being obvious.


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