(director: Paul Schrader; screenwriters: Noah Stollman/based on the novel Adam Resurrected by Yoram Kaniuk; cinematographer: Sebastian Edschmid; editor: Sandy Saffeels; music: Gabriel Yared; cast: Jeff Goldblum (Adam Stein), Willem Dafoe (Commandant Klein), Derek Jacobi (Dr. Nathan Gross), Ayelet Zurer (Gina Grey), Moritz Bleibtreu (Joseph Gracci), Hana Laslo (Nurse Shwester),Tudor Rapiteanu (Davey); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ehud Bleiberg/Werner Wirsing; Bleiberg Entertainment; 2008-USA-Germany-Israel-in English)
“It offers little justification for a viewer to sit through such a depressing film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Penned by Noah Stollman from Yoram Kaniuks controversial 1971 Israeli novel, Adam Resurrected, that’s helmed by Paul Schrader (“Blue Collar”/”Hardcore”/”Light Sleeper”). It’s a bleak Holocaust survivor drama with no justifiable purpose but seemingly to bring back bad memories of the concentration camps and a chance for Jeff Goldblum to give a forceful performance in a very forgettable film (it has little entertainment or social value, and seems to use the Holocaust survivors for tasteless dark comedy bits).
It’s set in the Israeli Negev Desert in 1961 where Nazi survivor of the camps, Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), is being treated with other survivors in an innovative mental institution by Dr. Gross (Derek Jacobi). Adam was a famous former German-Jewish circus clown, mind-reader, magician, knife thrower and nightclub performer in Berlin during the 1930s. We soon learn that he survived the death camps because he played the violin while fellow Jews, including his wife and daughter, were led into the crematoriums and because a sadistic camp commander, Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe), recognized Germany’s most famous clown and had Adam perversely entertain him by impersonating his Jew-hating German Shepherd dog to take his mind off his arduous job. The story builds tension around Adam’s flashbacks to his Berlin circus days and the degradation of the camps.
With his great ability to read minds and trace animal scents, the brilliant but insane Adam discovers the mental facility is secretly treating a young boy, David (Tudor Rapiteanu, Romanian newcomer), who has spent his entire life locked in a basement and chained to a wall until he thinks he’s a dog. Over time, these two get to meet and recognize that they are kindred souls (each survives acting like a dog) and both find a remarkable path to recovery–thus the title.
The soul-searching film never gets to what it wants to say without seeming awkward and, at times, it’s as subtle as a sledgehammer hitting us over the head. It offers little justification for a viewer to sit through such a depressing film.
REVIEWED ON 11/26/2008 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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