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Jakob the Liar (1999)

 -  Comedy | Drama | War  -  24 September 1999 (USA)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 9,991 users   Metascore: 40/100
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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 »

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Title: Jakob the Liar (1999)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Éva Igó ...
Lina's Mother (as Eva Igo)
István Bálint ...
Lina's Father (as Istvan Balint)
Justus von Dohnányi ...
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János Gosztonyi ...
Samuel (as Janos Gosztonyi)
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Ádám Rajhona ...
The Whistler (as Adam Rajhona)
Antal Leisen ...
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Storyline

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 radio broadcast about Russian troop movements. Returned to the ghetto, the shopkeeper shares his information with a friend and then rumors fly that there is a secret radio within the ghetto. Jakob uses the chance to spread hope throughout the ghetto by continuing to tell favorable tales of information from "his secret radio." Jakob, however, has a real secret in that he is hiding a young Jewish girl who escaped from a camp transport train. A rather uplifting and slightly humorous film about World War II Jewish Ghetto life. Written by Anthony Hughes <husnock31@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

ghetto | radio | german | hope | nazi | See more »

Taglines:

When all hope was lost, he invented it. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

24 September 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jakob the Liar  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$2,056,647 (USA) (24 September 1999)

Gross:

$4,956,401 (USA) (29 October 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

(Rankcolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays Dr. Kirschbaum (the Professor) was also in Jacob the Liar (1975) (upon which the 1999 film is based) as Roman Stahm, the brother of the character who was shot. See more »

Goofs

One of the supposed SS guards is wearing a field cap with the black-red-gold insignia of the modern German military, the Bundeswehr. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jakob Heym: Hitler goes to a fortune-teller and asks, "When will I die?" And the fortune-teller replies, "On a Jewish holiday." Hitler then asks, "How do you know that?" And she replies, "Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday."
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to the city and peoples of Piotrków, Poland, the city and peoples of Lódz, Poland and the city and peoples of Budapest, Hungary. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Gestillte Sehnsucht, Op. 91, NR 1
Written by Johannes Brahms
Performed by Marjana Lipovsek
Courtesy of Sony Classical
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Robin Williams should really stick to more serious roles like this.
9 February 2004 | by (Luoyang, China) – See all my reviews

I was completely stunned at how well Robin Williams pulled off more serious dramatic roles, since he's much more well-known for high-energy comedy. But his roles as the bad guy in movies like Insomnia or, even better, One Hour Photo display the extent of his acting abilities, since he is able to pull off such different characters so well. In Jakob the Liar, his comedic talents are restricted just enough so that he is able to function properly within the atmosphere of the movie, but is still allowed a scene or two in which his ability to get laughs can come out. He plays Jakob, a Jewish shopkeeper in a Nazi ghetto who tells a friend that he has a radio in order to prevent that friend from committing suicide.

Things do not appear to be going well within the ghetto, the war seems like it will never end, and morale among the imprisoned Jews is steadily waning, resulting in suicides left and right. As Jakob finds a friend of his doing something that will certainly get him killed by the Nazis (this particular friend decided to make a ham-handed attempt at escape rather than overtly kill himself), Jakob runs to him and tells him that he heard on the radio that the Russians were closing in and would liberate them any day. His skeptical friend doubts him, so Jakob quickly tells him that he has a radio so that he will believe the Russians will be there to save them all soon, and his friend's suicide is prevented.

By the next morning, literally everyone in the ghetto knows that Jakob Heym has a radio, and so he is venerated like a God and constantly hounded about what the newest news is, and thus enters the main conflict of the movie. And speaking of which, one of the things that I really liked about the movie was the complexity of its conflict. It's a conflict that you sit there knowing what needs to happen for a happy ending and so you sit there and hope for that, because every option has terrible consequences.

Jakob, first and foremost, is absolutely terrified that word will reach the Nazis who will execute him if they discover he has a radio (whether he really has it or not), yet at the same time he can't let it get out within the ghetto that he DOESN'T have a radio, because since the whole rumor began the rampant suicides have completely ceased. What he has to do, then, is walk the fine line between delivering lots of fictitious good news to the whole ghetto without letting the Nazis find out about it.

There is definitely something that needs to be said about the importance of a movie like this. Obviously, holocaust movies are nothing new, and different depictions of the holocaust have been especially in the spotlight since Roberto Benigni made a holocaust movie called Life Is Beautiful in 1997, at least half of which was a comedy. A lot of people felt that it was distasteful to present something as serious and tragic as the holocaust in such a light. And not just average moviegoers like me, either. Spielberg thought it was too lighthearted for such weighty subject matter, and from a certain point of view, he's right. On the other hand, however, the fact that you laughed during the film does not change the meaning of the war that it focuses on. The Nazis killed funny people, too.

I read a review on the title page for Jakob the Liar here on the IMDb, where a reviewer who completely missed the boat on this movie criticized it for things like the comedic content, the behavior and presentation of the Jews of the ghetto, and the choice of Robin Williams for the role of Jakob Heym. To be perfectly honest, I can never understand people like that. The way I see it, as long as a movie takes the holocaust seriously then it should not be criticized for being a holocaust film that's not in the right format or that had an actor who has done too many comedy roles. This same reviewer, by the way, praised Life Is Beautiful, a spectacular film, as is Jakob the Liar.

I can certainly understand that there are people who are touchy about the holocaust. It is inarguably one of the most tragic events in all of recorded human history, made even more tragic by the fact that it was perpetrated by humans against other humans. It's sickening. But there are no jokes about the holocaust in Jakob the Liar. The Jews do not act like victims. It is historically accurate and does not compromise the truth of what happened for the sake of entertainment. It presents a story of a ghetto full of captive Jews who have had their lives stolen from them and are desperate for some hope, and one man tries to help and inadvertently finds himself in a position to provide massive amounts of hope to them, but at massive risk to his own safety.

So if you don't like to see Robin Williams playing serious, dramatic roles (roles at which he is increasingly displaying his massive talent ), don't watch the movie! It is neither a secret that Williams is in the movie, nor that it's a serious role. One look at the cover box will tell you that. But if it's the holocaust being taken seriously that troubles you, maybe you should be more concerned about the fact that there are people, alive TODAY, here in the 21st Century, and presumably relatively educated American citizens, who DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE HOLOCAUST EVER EVEN HAPPENED. So like I said, if you're that concerned about the portrayal of the holocaust, maybe focus your efforts on these nutcases who have convinced themselves that the holocaust itself is just a fable. Maybe a myth that mothers started telling their kids to make them scared of Germans or some other such nonsense.

Jakob the Liar has no illusions, it takes a tragedy in human history and tells a story of a man who did what he could to help those suffering around him, and Robin Williams should obviously be commended for the power of his performance, as should the rest of the cast. The thing to keep in mind is that there is no certain perspective from which to view things like the holocaust. Everyone has different thoughts and feelings about it, and in the movies these different perspectives can be provided in different ways without compromising the severity and finality of the event itself. Jakob the Liar does not at all trivialize the holocaust in any way, what it does is honor the loss of its victims, who came from all walks of life.


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