AMC Loews 34th St. – 4:00pm
Saturday, October 21st
CAN HITLER HAPPEN HERE? By Saskia Rifkin
74 min | Drama | USA | 2017
Followed by Q&A with Filmmaker
The trouble for Miriam Kohen—a wealthy, elderly recluse who doesn’t venture past the front door of her Upper East mansion—starts with her neighbor Cynthia, a well-heeled matron fretting over the upkeep of her impeccable house that abuts Miriam’s crumbling one. Miriam’s son, Josh, living in L.A., is also worried about the state of what Miriam calls her “landfill,” an Upper East Side townhouse strewn with empty vodka bottles, take-out containers, papers, art supplies, and her beloved paintings.
Not long after she accepts Cynthia’s offer of help, a succession of characters begin knocking on her door. There are real-estate investors who want to buy her house, and city social workers inquiring about her welfare. Even the police barge in. Her once isolated existence is constantly being interrupted.
Her perceptions start to change. Her neighbors and family members shift from bourgeois types who simply don’t understand her preferred lifestyle to a nefarious web conspiring to take away her “landfill,” the only place she feel safe.
Told from Miriam’s perspective, the narrative becomes increasingly extreme and convoluted as it unfolds, leading viewers to question the narrator herself. Are the people and events she describes any more real than the figures in her life-size works of art?
A study of the fascinating fine line between madness and genius, the film allows the viewer a glimpse into the mind of a reclusive artist whose home has become both sanctuary and second skin. Scenes of chaos, both inner and outer, offer a visceral sense of what it feels like for creative personalities whose shifting consciousness is paradoxically both their greatest asset and biggest handicap. When meddling neighbors begin to take umbrage at Miriam’s refusal to conform to social norms, an intricate battle of wits and wills ensues.
A brave exploration of geriatric female sexuality, the film does not shy away from this taboo subject. Rather its first-time female director approaches the themes of privacy, mental illness, victimization, feminism, and civil rights head-on. This cautionary tale is made even more provocative by the cinematography, which maintains high production values while not conforming to any current cinematic trends. Can Hitler Happen Here educates and disturbs, disrupts and surprises.
Saskia Rifkin, a director and producer, has over twenty years experience working in independent film, television, and contemporary art. For the past decade, she has partnered with the internationally renowned artist Gregory Crewdson to produce his critically and commercially successful, major photography projects. These include Beneath the Roses, a series that took nearly a decade to compete with a crew of over one hundred people (and was the subject of the 2012 feature documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters.) Most recently, she produced his series Cathedral of the Pines, exhibited at Gagosian Gallery in January 2016. Saskia has also supervised the production of numerous films and TV shows for prominent producers and directors such as Mark Burnett and Abel Ferrara. A native New Yorker, she began her career by pursuing a degree in Film and Culture Studies at Barnard College; during that time she worked in the studio with seminal visual artist Robert Longo. Can Hitler Happen Here (2017) is her feature film directorial debut.