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At the turn of the century, Lodz, Poland was a quick-paced manufacturing center for textiles, replete with cutthroat industrialists and unsafe working conditions. Three young friends, a Pole, a Jew and a German, pool their money together to build a factory. The movie follows their ruthless pursuit of fortune. Written by
Having read the previous reviews of this film, I am inclined to agree with the lone 3-star one. I'm no flag-waver for capitalism, but stereotyped images do not help anyone. What disturbed me most was the crude stereotyping of Jews. One reviewer here has argued that all of the characters appear as crude, unsympathetic stereotypes - as if that were a defence of the film - and that it is therefore acceptable to stereotype Jews. I disagree. Even if the general tendency to crude theory-driven characterisation did not invalidate the whole thing, which in my opinion it does, there would still remain a difference in the way the crude stereotypes are constructed.
The capitalists and peasants are stereotyped according to their social class: offensive enough, just as much to the grovelling, screeching workers and peasants as to the yapping, striding, quail-crunching capitalists and aristocrats. On the other hand, the Jewish characters are clearly stereotyped along racial lines. Look at the depiction of traditional Jewish culture. Three men in ritual costumes are praying. When they finish, one of them (I presume the Rabbi) says he is paying one of them less than the other because he didn't pray with enough concentration. What could be a more crude, vicious and insulting repetition of the clichéd old stereotype of the two-faced, money-obsessed Jew? The scene could have been used to create a contrast between traditional Jews and those who become involved in capitalism but, no, it's all of them.
The central Jewish character is as subtle as a black-and-white minstrel. The effeminate facial expressions; the inability to appreciate social situations except for their business opportunities; the way he looks on impotently as the properly manly Germans and Poles get their ends away at an orgy; there is little to the character but a collection of classic stereotypes. It's extremely tedious.
I see little substantial difference between this frenetic, overheated mess and the poisonous ranting of Karl Marx in 'On the Jewish Question'.
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