Believer

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Glenn Fitzgerald, Theresa Russell
Director: Henry Bean

This film is based on a true story of a Jewish Nazi, Danny Baliant (Ryan Gosling). By day he gives anti-Semitic speeches, raises money for neo-fascist movements and organises bombings of synagogues. By night he teaches his girlfriend Carla (Summer Phoenix) Hebrew while she in turn, tempts him with plans to light candles and chants Sabbath prayers. His infatuation with both the Nazi party and his hidden respect for the Jewish ways have a disastrous effect and he simply implodes. The film chronicles the lead up to this point.

A word of warning here. This is one of the most harrowing movies you are likely to see. I personally have never felt as uncomfortable in a sedate viewing chair as I did in the scene where Danny and his so called friends are sent to an old people’s home to hear stories from Jews who lived through the Holocaust. If these stories weren’t disturbing enough, the pitiful, pathetic and uneducated way that these neo Nazis react makes you squirm in your seat, This was part of a programme called sensitivity training and is one of the most insensitive pieces of acting I have ever witnessed. It is one of these stories however that changes Danny’s life forever. The story told by one of the Jews haunts Danny so much that, where at first he imagines himself as a Nazi torturer, as the story progresses, he begins to see himself as the victim. He states at one point that we should all ‘know our enemy’. As those around him begin to suspect that there is more to Danny’s knowledge of the Jewish way of life than being merely well read, Danny realises that his own enemy is himself. He is a Nazi Jew and cannot cope with the contradiction.

I would love to recommend this to you but I can’t. The reason is because the first half of the movie, although leading up to the denouncement, really seems to glorify the violence. This may be due to the fact that the director Henry Bean (who wrote the excellent INTERNAL AFFAIRS) does too good a job of showing why people are drawn to violence. This works up to a point, until you are so repulsed you think that not only is the character repulsive but so is the film itself. When it changes its point of view towards the end, we are so scarred by what we’ve witnessed, we ourselves feel the same way about the neo Nazis as they feel about the Jews – that the world would be a better place without them. Either this is down to great filmmaking or we have seen just a little too much of everything.

The film is a direct reflection of the character – it has two conflicting parts – which sit too uncomfortably with each other. I wish I could say that this was an excellent film but some of the imagery and dialogue is so repulsive that you really just want to walk out into the rain and feel cleansed afterwards. Ryan Gosling puts in an Oscar winning performance as Danny, although I doubt very much Spielberg and Scorsese would be comfortable in his presence. (How they got away with naming famous Jewish people who they think should be punished is beyond me).

This is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. Real life horror always has a greater impact than computer generated monsters, but really, deep down, they are what I would prefer to see as entertainment. This film should really find it’s audience in art house cinemas where educated people will discuss how society can breed people such as Danny Baliant.

Verdict: Harrowing! I wanted to watch a Woody Allen comedy afterwards.

4 out of 6 stars

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