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The Chosen (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  30 April 1982 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 1,424 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 3 critic

In 1944, in Brooklyn, two Jewish kids become friends. One is from a very conservative family, and the other is more liberal. The issues of importance of tradition, parental expectations and the formation of Israel cause constant friction.

Director:

(as Jeremy Paul Kagan)

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Professor David Malter
...
Reb Saunders
...
Danny Saunders
Barry Miller ...
Reuven Malter
Hildy Brooks ...
Mrs. Saunders
Kaethe Fine ...
Shaindel Saunders
...
Baseball Coach
...
Levi Saunders (as Robert Burke)
...
Davey
...
Sidney Goldberg
Douglas Warhit ...
Sam
...
Schwartzi (as Jeff Marcus)
Stuart Charno ...
1st Baseman
Richard Lifschutz ...
Hassidic Coach
Clement Fowler ...
Doctor
Edit

Storyline

Brooklyn 1944. Despite being the same age, having grown up within blocks of each other, and both being Jewish, late teens Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter don't really know each other - knowing each other only by name and by sight - as Orthodox Danny stays largely within his own Hasidic community, which is just fine in Reuven's mind. An incident between the two which on the surface threatens to tear them even further apart instead blossoms into a friendship between the two. They begin to learn more and more about the other and their lives, which for Danny includes becoming a rabbi, solely as it is a several generations old family calling. In Reb Saunders' mind, he who rules his family by strict Hasidic traditions, Danny becoming the next rabbi in the family is not even a question, despite Danny, deep in his heart, wanting other secular pursuits which he has not told his father. Conversely, Reuven has modern sensibilities, being raised in a two-person household by his widowed academic ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

30 April 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Os Escolhidos  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Frank Maxwell's final feature film. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where Danny and Reuven tangle with the three street bullies, a modern (i.e., not 1940's) commercial bus passes in the cross street in the background. See more »

Quotes

Reuven Malter: You are weird.
Danny Saunders: *I* am?
Reuven Malter: Yeah, you are. You look like you walked out of another century. You play baseball like Babe Ruth. You talk like you're from another planet.
Danny Saunders: Thanks for the compliment.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Hebrew Hammer (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Invention No. 4 in D-, BWV 775
(uncredited)
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Barry Miller
Reuven practices playing the piece on the piano
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Religion is in feeling and not in reason
21 August 2006 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Conflict between two Orthodox Jewish families over the state of Israel threatens the growing friendship between two teenagers in The Chosen, a 1981 film based on the best-selling novel by Chaim Potok. Set in New York City in the 1940s, Reuven Malter (Barry Miller) is the worldlier of the two boys. He is more modern and practical than his friend, Danny Saunders (Robby Benson) who comes from a strict Hasidic background and wears hair curls and the traditional long black robe with white shirt. Danny's father Reb Saunders (Rod Steiger) is an immigrant Rabbi who is known in the community as a Tzaddic, a messenger from God. Rabbi Saunders raised Danny in silence in order to teach him humility and expects him to follow him in becoming a Rabbi.

Both boys wish to enter the other's world. Reuven longs for Danny's extended family and sense of community. Danny is interested in Freudian psychology and looks to Reuven to expose him to art, film, and music. The two boys meet on a ball field as a group of Hasidic Jews play a team of Jewish schoolboys. The Hasidim look like unworthy opponents but they turn out to be talented ballplayers. The game ends suddenly, however, when Danny hits a line drive that strikes Reuven in the eyes. When Danny comes to apologize in the hospital, Reuven rejects him, convinced that he will never regain his vision in his eye.

Though the boys gradually become friends, Reuven has to work to gain acceptance from Danny's father and must endure questioning on the intricacies of Jewish law. Reuven takes Danny to see his first movie and protects him when Rabbi Saunders asks what books Danny is reading at the library. Reuven is welcomed into the Saunders family and takes part in wedding celebrations and family dinners but, when he takes a liking to Danny's sister Shaindel (Kaethe Fine), he is told that all marriages are arranged in the Hasidic culture and Shaindel's partner has already been chosen. Both boys attend Hirsch College, Danny studying experimental psychology and Reuven philosophy but they maintain their study and appreciation of the sacred texts. Their friendship is threatened, however, when Reuven's father, David Malter, (Maximilian Schell), a professor at the local College, becomes an activist in the Zionist cause as the United Nations begins debating the partition of Palestine.

The idea of a secular Jewish state is strongly opposed by Saunders and other Hasidim who believe that Jews, according to a literal reading of the Bible, should only be led back to Israel by the Messiah and he refuses to let Danny to speak to Reuven for half a year. Rabbi Saunders is depicted in the film as a harsh and uncompromising figure who sees only ugliness and evil outside of religion but his humanity is redeemed as he explains to his son why he raised him in silence. He says that he thought that his brilliance was going to be too dominant in his life and that the essence of religion is in feeling and not in reason. He tells him, "...I cried inside my heart. I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, 'What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!"

Questions of faith and the religious ideal and how they can conflict with friendship are prominent themes in The Chosen. It is an entertaining and thought-provoking film but is unfortunately marred by a mannered performance from Rod Steiger as the Rabbi who turns a slow dance at a wedding into high camp and by Robbie Benson whose wooden acting fails to bring Danny to life. The Hasidic Jews are presented only as funny looking people with rigid ideas and their joy and spirituality, while glimpsed at a wedding ceremony, is lost among all the pontificating. What is also missing is any mention of the central idea of the Hasidim - the notion that God permeates all physical objects in nature, including all living beings and that man, by concentrating all of his thoughts on God, can unite with source and influence events on Earth.


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