A Jewish ghetto in the east of Europe, 1944. By coincidence, Jakob Heym eavesdrops on a German radio broadcast announcing the Soviet Army is making slow by steady progress towards central ...
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In 1944 Poland, a Jewish shop keeper named Jakob is summoned to ghetto headquarters after being caught out near curfew. While waiting for the German Kommondant, Jakob overhears a German ... See full summary »
Hannah Taylor Gordon,
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Isaach De Bankolé
A Jewish ghetto in the east of Europe, 1944. By coincidence, Jakob Heym eavesdrops on a German radio broadcast announcing the Soviet Army is making slow by steady progress towards central Europe. In order to keep his companion in misfortune, Mischa, from risking his life for a few potatoes, he tells him what he heard and announces that he is in possession of a radio - in the ghetto a crime punishable by death. It doesn't take long for word of Jakob's secret to spread - suddenly, there is new hope and something to live for - and so Jakob finds himself in the uncomforting position of having to come up with more and more stories. Written by
Popular German actor Heinz Rühmann was considered for the role of Jakob. Frank Beyer was unsure whether he should cast a good friend and great, but lesser known actor (Vlastimil Brodský) or cast Rühmann in an effort to make the film accessible to a larger audience. The fact that Rühman was from West-Germany caused a lot of controversy. In the end, 'Erich Hoenecker' , political leader of East-Germany himself decided that Frank Beyer should desist from casting Heinz Rühmann. See more »
Only a very few films have succeeded in treating the plight of the Jews under the Nazis with a sense of humor, but this is one of them. Sort of an earlier variation on 'Life is Beautiful', but this is far less saccharine, and the humor here is dry and sad, not slapstick and wacky.
In a Jewish ghetto in 1944, Jacob is brought to the police station for curfew violation. There he hears news on the radio that the Russians are advancing nearer. He uses this hopeful news to stop a fellow ghetto resident from committing sure suicide by trying to steal extra food. But in a moment of foolishness, Jacob claims he heard the news on his own secret radio. Soon the entire town is hounding him for positive news, and the shy quiet Jacob has become an unwanted celebrity and bringer of hope, forcing him into a moral quandary and more lies. The power of this simple fable is enhanced by some very touching flashbacks where we see these now beaten down characters as their lives were just a few years before full of love, laughter, food to eat, nice homes.
Vlastimil Brodsky is great as Jacob, even if he's unfortunately dubbed into German. He avoids the traps of sentimentality or self-pity. Right to the end this is an honest and moving tale of trying to retain one's humanity in the face of ever more overwhelming odds. The hard-to- find DVD could have a better image, but the print was apparently in bad shape from ill- storage in East Germany. (This was the only East German film ever nominated for an Oscar)
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