Rules Are Made To Be Broken 

The Exception
Stars: Christopher Plummer, Lily James, Jai Courtney, Janet McTeer, Eddie Marsan and Mark Dexter
Director: David Leveaux
Scriptwriter: Simon Burke from Alan Judd’s book “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss”
Composer: Ilan Eshken
Cinematographer: Roman Osin
A24 Productions
Running Length: 102 minutes
Rating: R for themed material and sexual scenes 

This film, directed by first-timer David Leveaux, deals with the “what if?”  What if Kaiser Wilhelm II was hiding in the Netherlands during Hitler’s rise to power? What if various factions around the globe (I) wanted him dead  (II) wanted him to be in a puppet government, or (III) would just leave him alone to waste away. In this story, the Kaiser is alive and ready to be a king to his people. However, Hitler is getting there first. Christopher Plummer takes on the role of the Kaiser and it is quite a performance with a touch of humor, dignity, compassion, and temper. Janet McTeer plays his wife, the Princess Hermine, who is always dignified and has strict standards and probably could play chess and beat each of her opponents. 

The film begins with Brandt (a muscular Jai Courtney) being summoned to the Netherlands to help guard the Kaiser from spies. There, he finds a compassionate old man who likes feeding geese on this estate and enjoys a good meal. Brandt falls into a romance with Mieke (Lily James from “Downton Abbey”) one of the maids, who is really hiding something. There is also Dietrich (Mark Dexter), the Kaiser’s attendant who sticks to him like glue. The Kaiser’s wife, and an assortment of visitors from SS people passing through and Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan). The dinner table with Himmler speaking of his visits with scientists is a chiller.  Everyone is searching for a spy with a radio and this is when the film begins to resemble a serious who-dun nit. For every chuckle, there comes a serious moment or betrayal. Who can you trust? As far as romance, during wartime, is it a one-night fling or more? 

Christopher Plummer takes his role of the Kaiser and gives us a man who once had great authority and the love of “his people,” but now that is gone. There is a sadness in everything he speaks. Jai Courtney, on the other hand, is stoic, has seen much battle, and drinks to forget. Lily James gives us a pretty young thing, but nervous all the time in this large house. Eddie Marsan (Himmler) and Mark Dexter (Dietrich) steal their scenes by impeccable dress and mannerisms (arrogant and evil for Himmler and arrogant and good for Dietrich).Janet McTeer’s role is that of a hostess, but she knows every card in the book about what those duties are. All in all, against the backdrop of this large country house, you have a cast that breathes life into a story. 

The Kaiser had ruled a part of the North country that once was Prussia and then pided into East and West Prussia and then disappeared into Germany. The aristocracy held together through many generations and by WWII, was almost gone. The title “Kaiser” and “Princess” for his wife, were starting to disappear. I enjoyed the remarks of  history made throughout the film, and the reminder of a world that once was. The words “The Exception” can mean overlooking many things, either in one’s own family or in one’s value system. During a war, anything is possible. 


Copyright: 2017 Marie Asner