By Harvey F. Chartrand
Shot in Vancouver's seediest district on a budget of only $100,000 (Cdn), Hitler Meets Christ (from a stage play by actor Michael Moriarty) follows two mentally ill, homeless men, who have mysteriously assumed the personae of the polar opposites of good and evil - Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler.
"I wrote the play in the late 80s," Moriarty says. (It was then called Hitler and Christ Meet Death at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.) "At that time, I was very close to Elie Weisel, the Nobel-Prize-winning writer. I did a reading on Theatre Row and invited Weisel to attend. He said this play ought to be produced."
Hitler Meets Christ was a recognition of how deeply performing in Holocaust affected Moriarty, who won a Golden Globe for his role as Nazi Erik Dorf in the landmark 1978 TV mini-series. "I had to write Hitler Meets Christ to try to understand why such evil can exist. My role in Holocaust was most intriguing, because the author (Gerald Green) really captured a human being turning rotten in front of your eyes."
In portraying such evil, a certain ritualistic distance must be maintained, because there is no possible way to convey the depths of evil inherent in Hitler and the Third Reich, Moriarty observes. "You just can't do it. You can only ritually reenact the story with as much dignity as an artist that you possess, and let the audience fill in the pieces. That?s not a position I can take with Hitler Meets Christ, though, because I'm playing a schizophrenic, alone and penniless and obsessed in his personal hell."
Moriarty says Hitler Meets Christ is "a comedy inasmuch as it allows the audience to laugh at Hitler, and a tragedy in that he's really a poor homeless man trapped and imprisoned by the soul of Hitler." Even as a subject for debate between two of society's outcasts, the possibility of Hitler's redemption for his monstrous crimes is a theme that is bound to stir controversy. (Moriarty plays "Hitler" - complete with the fascist dictator's trademark mustache - and Vancouver actor Wyatt Page [Valentine] portrays "Christ.")
Director and producer Brendan Keown believes that Hitler Meets Christ needs to be made, because it is controversial. "This film is risky on a cerebral level, but Michael's brilliant script allows us to tackle this subject matter in an intelligent way," he observes. "There was a lot of concern over the subject matter, the questions it would raise, and how it could be misunderstood or misrepresented by people before they had seen the film. The title alone is fairly controversial, but this doesn't mean that Hitler is a personality unworthy of study."
Wyatt Page and Michael Moriarty
Page believes the movie is bound to be controversial - inside and outside the Church. "It's going to challenge people and the way they view Christ and Hitler. The film is quite funny in spots, very dark in its humor. For the record, I of course do not condone Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich and the evil that they perpetrated on Mankind - specifically on the Jewish people. Hitler was the personification of evil on earth. I think what is going to be challenging for a lot of people is - just how far does God's love extend? Does the love of Christ extend to Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot or Josef Stalin? Religious scholars will have to wrestle with this question. When I first read the script, I couldn't wait to get to the end to see what the outcome would be. Is Hitler beyond redemption or isn't he? That question generates a lot of suspense."
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