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Apt Pupil (1998)

A boy blackmails his neighbor after suspecting him to be a Nazi war criminal.

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)

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Todd Bowden realizes that Kurt Dussander, a nazi criminal, lives in his small town. Soon, Todd blackmails Dussander into telling him about the gory details in exchange for not turning him ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Joey
...
Sociology Teacher
...
Nightmare Victim
...
Monica Bowden
...
Richard Bowden
...
Victor Bowden
...
Agnes Bowden
David Cooley ...
Gym Teacher
Blake Anthony Tibbetts ...
Teammate
...
Becky Trask
Katherine Malone ...
Student
Grace Sinden ...
Secretary
...
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Storyline

Neighborhood boy Todd Bowden (Renfro) discovers that an old man living on his block named Arthur Denker (Mackellan) is Nazi war criminal. Bowden confronts Denker and offers him a deal: Bowden will not go to the authorities if Denker tells him stories of the concentration camps in WWII. Denker agrees and Bowden starts visiting him regularly. The more stories Bowden hears, the more it affects his personality. Written by Casey Ward <ward@citizen.infi.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you've got a lot to learn.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for scenes of strong violence, language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

|

Release Date:

23 October 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El aprendiz  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,583,151 (USA) (25 October 1998)

Gross:

$8,838,938 (USA) (3 January 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(8 channels)|

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Editor and Composer John Ottman did two cameos in the film, but both were cut. The first was reading the lines of the off-screen teacher, but his voicing of lines was substituted at the last minute by Christopher McQuarrie. He also had a cameo as the music teacher, conducting the high-school band in the graduation scene, but this was eliminated from the final cut. See more »

Goofs

Kurt Dussander, upon receiving his uniform given by Bowden, commented on how he received a "promotion". The new rank was that of a field officer; a Lieutenant Colonel (Americanized version; German version is Oberstleutnant SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer). The SS insignia was always on the right collar, the other on the left. This occurs just after 30 minutes into the movie. About 52 minutes into the movie, the collar position of the insignia changes collars; the "SS" is now on the left collar, the other on the right. This mistake escapes many of us due to the fact we are seeing him looking at himself in a mirror, and so it seems to make sense. The truth is, of course, despite the use of a mirror, right is still right, and left is still left. See more »

Quotes

[Todd knocks on Dussander's door]
Kurt Dussander: Yes? What do you want?
Todd Bowden: I...
Kurt Dussander: If you're selling something, I'm not interested.
Todd Bowden: I have your newspaper.
[Dussander opens the door of his porch to take the newspaper]
Todd Bowden: I'm not selling anything.
Kurt Dussander: Then what do you want?
Todd Bowden: If you could let me in for a minute, I just want to talk.
Kurt Dussander: Talk? I don't have anything to say to you, boy. Good day to you.
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Angel: Somnambulist (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Take Me Out to the Ball Game
(uncredited)
Written by Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer
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User Reviews

 
A Character Study Illustrating How Nazi's Were Able to Assert Their Power
16 April 1999 | by (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) – See all my reviews

The only thing more frightening that having the Holocaust as part of our world's long history is to know that are human minds capable of creating and sustaining such an oppression. The real horror of Bryan Singer's adaptation of Stephen King's novella "Apt Pupil" lies in that we have this knowledge. We know that Adolf Hitler possessed the powers of immense manipulation and charisma. This has been so ingrained into our heads that I remember as a child knowing that Hitler was charismatic before I really knew what the term meant. This film is an exploration into the mind of a person who conceivably has many of the same manipulative characteristics. In the progression of the film, we slowly learn why.

Before any images actually come on screen, we hear the voice of someone asking if the Holocaust occurred as a result of economic or social cultural reasons. Or was it in fact, human nature? We then realize that the monologue is being given by a school teacher in a social studies class. The principle character, Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), a member of this class and is fascinated with studying the Holocaust. He spends much time in the library reading books and newspaper articles on the subject. Just as the opening credits finish, the camera zooms in slowly to the eyes of a concentration camp leader. This is the first of many extreme close-up shots of eyes. This distance motif is incredibly effective. The eyes are the window to a man's soul and the psyche that "Apt Pupil" explores.

One rainy night, while Todd is riding the bus, he sees a mysterious man, who he realizes is Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellan), a Nazi war criminal and concentration camp leader who managed to escape from Germany years before. This is when we really begin to see Todd's disturbed mind. He is the kind of person who is so meticulous that he finds fourteen finger print matches of Dussander and builds a file that will be sent to the Israeli government if he doesn't agree to tell stories about the Holocaust that "they are too afraid to tell in school". It is now clear that Todd is not so fascinated with the Holocaust because he's racist (the film makes no reference to him being racist). He admires the power, dedication and will behind the driving force of the Holocaust. He mimics this power in his blackmailing of Dussander.

The scenes with Dussander explaining in explicit detail the acts that he performed in concentration camps are quite disturbing in themselves, but what is more disturbing is that Todd seems more detached than Kurt. Most of us would cringe in disgust if we were to sit and listen to the stories that Kurt tells. We get the impression that Todd is thrilled with the fact that he is able to control this man and make him relive his past.

In the film's most harrowing scene, Todd brings Kurt an officer's uniform, similar to what he would have worn during the War years, and makes him march. Up until this point, we are led to believe that perhaps Kurt has had some time to develop remorse over the years for his haneous acts of brutality, but when Todd begins commanding him, Kurt fades to the same state of mind of his Nazi persona from the past and we see the man capable of ordering concentration camp personnel to gas hundreds of Jews. The scene is truly chilling and stands out as the most memorable in the film.

"Apt Pupil" is occasionally slow, but never boring. I, for one could not take my eyes off the screen for a second. The power struggles between Todd and Kurt are always intense. The sequence of events leads up to a horrifying scene with Todd and his guidance counselor (David Schwimmer). Here, we learn of the lengths that Todd will take his manipulation. "You can't do that," the guidance counselor says. "You have no idea what I am capable of doing," replies Todd. This line of dialogue is very effective. We know from having seen the rest of the film that Todd is capable of quite a lot. While not as powerful or intense as Stephen King's novella, the film "Apt Pupil" gives us a creepy insight to the corruption of power and manipulation.

**** out of ****


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