Well, this is a strange, little movie.  “Mother Night” stars Nick Nolte as an American living in pre-WWII Germany who gets recruited by the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) via an agent played by John Goodman.  Goodman tells Nolte that Americans need him to be a spy for the Americans; and that Nolte would be a perfect secret agent because he is so entrenched in the German culture and high society that he would be in a position to hear important information from Germany’s movers and shakers.  Oh, Goodman also tells Nolte that the American government would never acknowledge his recruitment to be a spy no matter what, nor would it help him if he should ever get caught.  Wow, what a deal!

Surprisingly, Nolte accepts.  Why?  For the challenge.  Nolte is a playwright, you see, and he sees this as the greatest role he can ever play, written for him by him.  And so, Nolte becomes a famous voice on Nazi radio, extolling the virtues of the Aryan race and Hitler, and fueling the hatred for Jews and other unwanted groups.  But his radio broadcasts secretly contain codes that feed Americans with secrets about the German war machine, and no one is the wiser…except for one person.

Fast forward many years later after the war, and Nolte is an old man living in NYC.  He is also labeled as a war criminal.  Thinking that no one cares anymore (he has been in the U.S. for many years and no one has taken notice of who he is), Nolte discards his alias and uses his real name.  Yes, I know, that was puzzling.  As you may have guessed, eventually a few people start to notice his famous name and easily recognizable voice.  That’s very bad if the Mossad is out to kidnap you and bring you to Israel to be tried and possibly killed.

“Mother Night” is a bit schizophrenic because the first half of the movie is a straightforward drama/suspense/thriller story; and then we have the surreal last half which crosses into the comedic territory many times.   As an example of the bizarre world that we enter in the final half of “Mother Night,” we see a black man dressed in a Nazi uniform who visits Nolte.   I thought it was a dream sequence, but it was not.  The black, Nazi dude was exactly as he was portrayed.  This was one of my memorable moments of this movie.

At the top of my memorable, movie moments of “Mother Night” is the scene when Nolte watches his younger self on a projector screen, dressed as a German soldier and spewing all manner of venom against Jews.  Nolte is stunned at how well he plays his role; and I think it is at this point that he accepts his guilt in the mass murder of millions of Jews.  As the movie states: we become what we pretend to be.

“Mother Night” could have been a much better movie if it wasn’t for the weird, second half.   Despite this, I still recommend this movie to be watched once.

One last thing…a bit of trivia: the director of “Mother Night” is Keith Gordon, the actor who played the teenaged owner of Christine in “Christine.”

— M