Keith Gordon’s darkly comic film version of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s highly original novel stars Nick Nolte as Howard J. Campbell Jr., an unusual antihero with a twisted story to tell. The tale begins in a Israeli prison cell, where Campbell is on trial for WWII war crimes. Campbell is given a typewriter and enough paper to recount his bizarre memoir, which appears as a series of black-and-white and colour scenes that shift between 1940s Germany, 1950s New York, and 1960s Israel. The American Campbell and his parents relocate to Germany between the two world wars and live a happy life. Campbell grows up to be a playwright and marries a beautiful German actress, Helga Noth (Sheryl Lee). On a day like any other, Campbell’s life takes a bizarre turn as he is offered a top-secret assignment by a U.S. government official (John Goodman in an unbilled role)–to pose as a Nazi sympathiser while relaying secret American code via the radio. Campbell successfully accomplishes his mission by starting an anti-American, anti-Semitic radio programme that is revered in Nazi Germany and deplored in America. In a strange twist of fate, the unknown American playwright becomes a well-known German celebrity. After the war, Campbell escapes Germany and flees to New York, preferring to remain anonymous in the booming city. Years later, Campbell’s life is turned upside down when he is recognised and pursued by Holocaust survivors, eager white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and U.S. law enforcers, leading to his incarceration in the Israeli prison where he awaits his fate. As Campbell, Nolte gives one of the finest performances of his career. A nightmarish maze of one man’s misadventures, MOTHER NIGHT is an ironic and deeply stylised tribute to the one-of-a-kind dark humour of Vonnegut’s writing.



March 14, 1997


Keith Gordon


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (novel) & Robert B. Weide (screenplay)


Fine Line Features


Drama, Romance, War




114 minutes