The Ogre

on December 11, 1998 by Melissa Morrison
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   From its awkward childhood prologue, which features painfully bad acting, to its title character, a simple-minded, large-of-stature man played by the most intellectual-seeming and average-sized of actors (John Malkovich), "The Ogre" is ill conceived. Director and co-writer Volker Schlondorff ("The Tin Drum") wanted to tell the English-language story of the Nazi terror through the eyes of a character who participated yet was disengaged: Hence, Abel, a dim-witted Frenchman and one of life's losers, who, through the vicissitudes of fate, winds up as a privileged helper at a Nazi school for boys.
   His only sympathies lie with children, which is why he eventually becomes a cloaked figure on horseback in the Black Forest, stealing peasant boys to train as Hitler youths. That's fascinating, except the filmmakers can't pull off this fairy tale. It's irritating to watch a fool for two hours, Forrest Gump notwithstanding. And, for all the sumptuousness of its sets, "The Ogre" has a made-for-TV gloss and patness.    Starring John Malkovich, Marianne Saegebrecht and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Directed by Volker Schlondorff. Written by Jean-Claude Carriere and Volker Schlondorff. Produced by Ingrid Windisch. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 118 min.
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