Follow by Email

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Man in the High Castle

As we head into fall it's time to start thinking (at least for me) about all things scary and spooky. But I don't know of anything supernatural that's as scary as the proposition that the Nazis won World War II. That's been the premise of many alternate histories, but Philip K. Dick's book The Man in the High Castle is probably the best known, and it was into a series by Amazon. I've just seen the first season (another is coming soon) and at times it was so unnerving I had to take breaks from it.

Dick's book, which I haven't read, was set in a 1962 where the Germans and Japanese had won the war. Roosevelt had been assassinated, and isolationism stymied the military build-up and thus the Axis powers won. In the series, the Germans hold the Eastern United States, while Japan has the West Coast. The Rockies are the "neutral zone," a kind of Wild West where anything goes.

The main character is Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos). Her step-sister gives her a film canister before she is murdered by the Japanese police, or Kempeitai. Davalos gets involved in the resistance, and takes the film to the neutral zone. She meets a young truck driver (Luke Kleintank), who is a Nazi agent, but we're never quite sure of his loyalties. He is working for John Smith (a brilliant Rufus Sewell), who is American born but works for the SS and is completely loyal to the Reich.

Meanwhile, Davalos' boyfriend (Rupert Evans) is captured and pressed for Davalos' whereabouts. He won't talk, and Inspector Kido (the fantastic Joel de la Fuente) discovers he is part Jewish. Evans' sister and her children end up gassed, and he is bereft. He decides he is going to assassinate the Japanese Crown Prince (who I guess today is Akihito) but before he can someone else does, but he's been spotted in the crowd with a gun.

There are many other subplots, such as the Japanese Trade Minister (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) attempting to forestall war with Germany by helping a high-ranking Nazi to give Japan the secret of the A-bomb (which in this alternative universe, was developed by Heisenberg for the Germans). But the key element is that everyone is chasing after newsreel films, supposedly showing images of the Allies winning the war, and that are made by someone known as the Man in the High Castle.

What makes this series, created by Frank Spotnitz, work is that it creates a general paranoia that must be felt under repressive regimes. And still, seventy years later, and generations beyond those who experienced it, the sight of men in Nazi uniforms and flags with Swastikas flying over American buildings gives chills. What's really amazing is that by the end of the film, when some things are sorted out (but not all, we do need another season) is that you may find yourself sympathizing with Adolph Hitler.

The acting, writing,and directing in The Man in the High Castle is uniformly excellent. I would also like to mention Burn Gorman, known as the Marshal, who keeps the law in the neutral zone; Brennan Brown, as a snooty American antiques dealer who will play a huge part in the assassination attempt; and Carsten Norgaard as the Nazi who becomes disgusted with the movement and tries to ensure peace.

The final image of the series, which I will not reveal here, calls into question everything we have seen in the series up to that point, therefore I will be there when Season 2 arrives.

No comments:

Post a Comment