Apt Pupil (1998)
Dir: Bryan Singer
Available on DVD
Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) a high school senior discovers that one of the people living in his town is Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) a wanted Nazi war criminal. When Todd confronts Kurt, they strike a deal where Kurt will tell him all the gruesome details of his time as a Nazi and Todd will continue to keep his secret. What follows is an often complicated twisting of youth and the monsters we usually meet in our darkest nightmares. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella of the same title.
This film is an interesting look at the power and draw of true evil. The draw is created not by a monster from some other form of reality but the monstrous nature of man. Kurt Dussander was personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and he shows little remorse for his past. His character embodies the power that was held by those he fought for in the war and his draw to the young Todd is almost that of a mentor and apprentice. The performances of Renfro and McKellen are outstanding and they bring a certain verité to the characters, though the film as a whole does fall a little short. Director Bryan Singer does manage to capture the evil of the Holocaust but in the end doesn’t push the edge quite as far as he could have. Still, it is a powerful film and a frightening insight into madness.