Cannes Films Full of Far-Right Foes
New ‘Indiana Jones’ movie, Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ and more hinge on racist villains
If Cannes is a cultural barometer of the world’s anxieties, then brace for a darkening storm of racial intolerance. Nazis invaded the first few days of the French film festival, with omnipresent Aryans nabbing key roles in James Mangold’s industrial-strength entertainment Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Jonathan Glazer’s devastatingly austere The Zone of Interest, and Steve McQueen’s four-hour movie-cum-art-installation Occupied City. The whiplash disparity, from the cartoonish to the dramatically astringent, made for some wild marathon viewing.
Mads Mikkelsen is Harrison Ford’s latest adversary in the vigorously innocuous spectacle Dial of Destiny, and his Führer-fanatical physicist Jürgen Voller is the throughline to this fifth entry in the five-decade-long series. It’s no surprise that this franchise-topping picture would revive WWII’s favorite antagonist, since Nazis are the Coke Classic of bad guys in the Indy-verse.
Turns out Dr. Jones first encountered Voller back in 1944, when they tussled over a Greek artifact called the MacGuffin— I mean, the Antikythera — which, as per usual, is an ancient rarity that bestows immense godlike powers on those who yield it. And now, in 1969, septuagenarian Jones and his morally murky goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) have to vie with Voller and his white supremacist goons over who can get it first. Spoiler alert: this whip-cracking geriatric American is still pretty effective as a two-fisted Nazi hunter.
The Master Race plays a much more quotidian role in The Zone of Interest, Glazer’s astonishing adaptation of the Holocaust novel by Martin Amis, whose death within hours of the film’s premiere only further underlined the film’s palpable sense of mortality. Over the course of a taut, tortured 105 minutes, Glazer quietly details the domestic bliss of a German commander (Christian Friedel) who not only runs Auschwitz, but literally lives in its shadow.
His spacious backyard shares a wall with the concentration camp’s outer perimeter; muffled screams and gunfire are the white noise of their otherwise über-suburban lives. His wife (a chilling Sandra Hüller) picks through the reclaimed clothes of interned Jews, efficiently scrubs her kids when the nearby stream accidentally fills with human ashes, and occasionally threatens her staff with incineration. “We’re living how we dreamed we would,” she says, utterly earnest.
Less viscerally effective but still disquieting is Occupied City, a marathon viewing experience that maintains a formal rigor as it catalogues scenes of Nazi atrocities in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Dutch capital. No talking heads, no archival footage, nothing but a calm narrator reciting facts while we see modern-day cityscapes — given unnerving texture and rhyming relevance due to the fact that the footage was shot during Covid-era lockdowns and curfews.
But Cannes’ “exterminate all the brutes” vibe didn’t end there: Martin Scorsese’s 206-minute Killers of the Flower Moon also cannonballed onto the Croisette over the weekend. The former Palme d’Or winner debuted his epic 1920s-set apologia for the systematic and secret slaughtering of the oil-rich Osage Nation at the hands of arrogant, resentful white men. In his hands, David Grann’s devastating chronicle of a long-unsolved mystery pivots from being a whodunnit to, as Scorsese called it at the film’s press conference, a “who-didn’t-do-it” that reveals the murderous culprits in the film’s first act.
What remains is a curdled romance between simpleton Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his wealthy but increasingly sickly Osage wife Mollie (Lily Gladstone), with Burkhart’s duplicitous uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) incessantly racking up one murder after another while slowly amassing his fortune. The ruminative film lacks the book’s dread-soaked atmosphere, and doesn’t share the same tonal menace, but maintains its mournful indignation and adds an unexpectedly startling coda that reframes — and shrewdly condemns — how American culture consumes its jagged historical truths, softening the edges to make them more digestible.