Here in the always-glamorous world of film reviewing, the effects of the American writer’s strike are still being felt. Productions were put on hold, cancelled, or consigned to Hollywood-purgatory, and the upshot of all these shenanigans is that there are now fewer films to criticise. In some cases, however, I can only be thankful.
Most perplexing is the prospect of Valkyrie, the new Tom Cruise epic whose release date has been mercifully postponed. Presumably made as part of Cruise's mission to show that he's a really great guy, not just some crazy Scientologist who thinks he has mind powers, Valkyrie tells the story of Claus von Stauffenberg, a name revered in Germany as that of a national hero, but met with near-unanimous blank indifference most other places.
Stauffenberg was the man who bravely tried doing away with troublesome dictator Adolph Hitler in 1944. I say tried because, as well all know, Hitler irritatingly survived the attempt on his life and fled to South America with Emperor Palpatine after the war. The failure of the plot — problematic in both a moral and film-narrative sense — will certainly prove tricky to spin in cinemas: nobody likes to see the Nazis win, after all. Icebergs, perhaps, and photogenic blonde children, certainly, but never fanatic bigots. However, to my mind the real problem will not be the destination, but the journey.
For those of you who haven't yet retreated to Wikipedia, dismayed by the resounding lack of historical authority that has so far been demonstrated, allow me to drop a couple of truth bombs. Stauffenberg wasn't defeated by the Storm troopers, or even by the more important looking Imperial Guards who wore the floor-length red robes, but by — seriously — an unfortunately well constructed piece of furniture. His carefully planted explosion was deflected by a table, and thusly did the Fuhrer survive.
So, how will this play out on film? Traditionally — and here comes a message from Captain Obvious — anybody who holds so integral a role in a story is endowed with personality, however little, of some kind. Even when the subject is not truly alive or human, this can be quite powerfully achieved — think of Space Odyssey's HAL, or half-man, half-pure evil Peter Cushing. But a table?
At the very least, I expect it to be draped in swastikas, to make clear that this is Nazi furniture. Ideally, it should also have a sinister-looking dark grain veneer, perhaps filmed from camera angles deep with foreboding, and with an accompanying ominous soundtrack plagiarised from a David Lynch film. Or maybe, just maybe, as this is a Cruise film, and though I hate to generalise, these do not often err on the side of subtlety, subliminal messages could be inserted at suitable points, simply reading, “This table is bad!!!”
Whatever happens, the moral of this tale is clear: we should all exercise our patriotic duty by going to IKEA en masse, and purchasing poorly designed office desks, lest this ever happen again.