David LeveauxUnited Kingdom107 minutes2016ColourEnglish
Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners, Remember) and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs, Hannah Arendt) star in this adaptation of Alan Judd’s novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss, about German Kaiser Wilhelm II’s post-WWI exile in the Netherlands.
Alan Judd's well-regarded novel The Kaiser's Last Kiss has been brought to the screen in elegant fashion by David Leveaux in this film that has been a passion project for Christopher Plummer since the book was published in 2003. Few people are aware of the fate that befell the last German Kaiser after the First World War brought about the collapse of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Exiled to the Netherlands, the disgraced Wilhelm lived until 1941 — long enough to see Germany re-establish its power and embark on another catastrophic world war.
The Exception concentrates on these last years in the life of Wilhelm (Plummer). Living in a rambling country mansion with his wife, Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer), and a small retinue of aides and servants, the erstwhile emperor is given a new lease on life by the Nazi invasion of France and the Lowlands, which sees Holland fall under German subjugation. Fantasizing about a return to Berlin and the throne, Wilhelm soon finds himself under the supervision of an SS captain (Jai Courtney) and a detachment of German soldiers. Meanwhile, the Kaiser's entourage hires a new maid (Lily James), in whom the captain takes an immediate interest. The stage is set for a story of subterfuge and espionage, all of which comes to a head with a visit from Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan), head of the SS.
This is historical recreation at its finest. Plummer delivers a shaded and majestic performance that is beautifully complemented by McTeer's work, while James and Courtney shine. But it is impossible to resist Eddie Marsan as Himmler. He conveys the cold core of the man whose evident evil stands in stark contrast to the aristocratic manners of the fallen Kaiser.