Snide and Prejudice

My heart goes out to Philippe Mora. Snide and Prejudice was obviously shot a long time ago: we see Brion James in a small role, and Brion James died in August 1999. Only in November 2001 has the film finally seen the light of day – in a single dingy Hollywood theatre, no less.

In a Los Angeles mental hospital, a psychiatrist (Rene Auberjonois) specializing in patients who believe they're historical figures hones in on one (Angus MacFadyen) who fancies himself Adolf Hitler. The doctor conducts an unusual form of therapy: he casts patients and doctors to help the patient reenact the life of the Nazi dictator. This is no character-motivated psychodrama, though; the setup is merely a basis for examining the rise and fall of history's most famous madman.

Mora's inspiration is clearly Bertolt Brecht, specifically Brecht's frightening spoof of Nazism, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Mora applies many Brechtian devices to keep audiences aware of the political message, and not to connect with the characters: actors play multiple roles and occasionally speak to the camera; the story is often interrupted by crude farce. But Mora, who has directed films like Mercenary II, Howling III, and Pterodactyl Woman of Beverly Hills, is no Bertolt Brecht.

Furthermore, the power of Ui was in its timeliness; written shortly after Germany's defeat in 1945, its famous last line "Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again" really resonated when people were still counting their WWII dead.

The cast, full of character actors in bit parts (as well as a pre-American Beauty Mena Suvari as Hitler's doomed niece), is serviceable, though many seem lost between the realism inherent to feature filmmaking and the theatricality that Mora is aiming for. MacFadyen is inarguably the standout, and he does a good Hitler, though that entails lots of shouting and ranting, which can get a little tiring after two hours.

Mora's visual sense is flat, though by the looks of it, he managed to score Frank Lloyd Wright's gorgeous Ennis-Brown House as his chief (and only?) location.