Mother Night

1996

Mother Night (1996)

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Movie Info

Howard W. Campbell Jr. (Nick Nolte) is an American playwright living in pre-World War II Berlin. He is happily married to his lovely wife Helga (Sheryl Lee), and is acclaimed for his work, which gains him entree into Berlin's highest political and social circles. Then one day he's approached by Frank Wirtenan (John Goodman), an American intelligence agent who offers Campbell the opportunity to spy for his country. Campbell refuses. He wonders why he was asked. "You're obsessed with the notion of pure hearts and heroism. You love good and you hate evil ...and you'd sacrifice anything in the name of romance," Wirtenan tells him. So Campbell agrees. He seamlessly infiltrates the Nazis and gets a job spewing hateful Nazi propaganda on a weekly radio show beamed across Europe. He barely survives the war, his wife supposedly doesn't, and finds himself living in New York City, penniless and befriended by a next-door neighbor, a painter and fellow widower (Alan Arkin). He might have lived quietly beyond that, but gets found by a ragged group of American neo-Nazis -- and, incredibly, his wife. The neo-Nazis publicize his presence and he learns that his neighbor is actually a spy and that his wife is really her little sister. Guilt-stricken and alone, Campbell turns himself in to the Israelis, who charge him with being a war criminal. He's about to go on trial in Israel when he receives a letter from Wirteman promising to reveal his heroic spying and exonerate him, but Campbell hangs himself in his cell.

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Cast

Nick Nolte
as Howard Campbell
Sheryl Lee
as Helga Noth
Alan Arkin
as George Kraft
John Goodman
as Frank Wirtanen
Kirsten Dunst
as Resi Noth
Arye Gross
as Abraham Epstein
Frankie Faison
as Black Fuhrer of Harlem
David Strathairn
as Bernard B. O'Hare
Bernard Behrens
as Dr. Lionel Jones
Henry Gibson
as Adolph Eichmann's Voice
Norman Rodway
as Werner Noth
Anna Berger
as Epstein's Mother
Anthony J. Robinow
as Prison Warden
Michael McGill
as Prison Official
Shimon Aviel
as Guard Bernard Liebman
Bill Corday
as Campbell's Father
Bronwen Mantel
as Campbell's Mother
Brawley Nolte
as Young Howard Campbell
Louis Strauss
as Old Jewish Man
Zach Grenier
as Joseph Goebbels
Richard Zeman
as Rudolph Hess
Thomas Hauff
as SS Officer
Jeff Pufah
as Young German Soldier
Vlasta Vrana
as August Krapptauer
Gerard Parkes
as Father Keeley
Michael Moran
as Violent Man
William Haughland
as TV Reporter
Joel Miller
as Israeli Vice-Consul
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
as Sad Man on Street
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Critic Reviews for Mother Night

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (7)

Director Keith Gordon emphasizes the speeches more than other issues, and his otherwise thoughtful movie needlessly romanticizes hate.

Aug 23, 2017 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

A serious drama that is also funny without crossing into burlesque.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4
USA Today
Top Critic

Frankie Faison comes the closest to Vonnegut's spirit in his bold caricature of the Black Fuehrer of Harlem.

Apr 25, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Nick Nolte is excellent in Keith Gordon's ambitious but flawed adaptation of Vonnegut's fascinating novel.

Apr 28, 2011 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Surprisingly good Vonnegut adaptation

Jul 14, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

Helps us to see that there is no escaping the burdens of living in a political world.

Aug 28, 2002 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Mother Night

Tight script and direction with some good performances in this underrated WW2 drama.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

½

Unusual and thoughtful character study featuring a great perfomance from Nick Nolte. Perfectly captures the tone of Vonnegut's intelligent but offbeat writing style. A forgotten gem.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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