Jakob the Liar (1999)

PG-13  |   |  Comedy, Drama, War  |  24 September 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 12,105 users   Metascore: 40/100
Reviews: 89 user | 68 critic | 25 from Metacritic.com

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


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 | nazi | hope | See All (39) »


He will make you believe. See more »


Comedy | Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:




| |


Release Date:

24 September 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Una señal de esperanza  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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


$4,956,401 (USA) (29 October 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 »


The movie is set in Poland (hence the Polish-languaged signs on buildings, eg Jakob's café), but 'Mischa' is a Russian name (a diminutive form of 'Mikhail'/'Mikal' ('Michael'). See more »


[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 »


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


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

Testifying To The Power Of Hope
29 December 2001 | by (Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

Over the years, I have found Robin Williams to be one of the most frustrating actors around. Clearly loaded with talent, in my opinion at least most of his movies have been disappointments. He either gives unnecessarily over-the-top performances that really don't fit the context, or he controls his natural comedic instincts to the point at which he comes across as uninspired. So I wasn't sure what to expect in "Jakob the Liar." What I found was a surprisingly good performance in a wonderful movie.

Williams plays Jakob Heym, confined to the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw by the Nazis during the Second World War. With hope fading, Heym accidentally discovers that Russian troops aren't far away, and begins to spread the news. Others become convinced that he has a radio hidden, and Heym's fictional "news reports" from the BBC provide enough hope to keep the residents of the Ghetto going through this dark time.

Williams (also executive producer) did a fine job as Heym. As one would expect, his character comes across as something of a comedian ("I believe we're God's Chosen People; I just wish He had chosen someone else!") but his humour is appropriate; the sort of dark humour one would expect from people in this situation. The other performances faded into the background, not because they were bad but because Williams so dominated the movie. Special mention should go to Justus von Dohnanyi, though, who played the Nazi Commandant "Preuss." Dohnanyi manages to capture exactly the sort of slimy, inhuman character one would expect to be put in charge of such a business. The rest of the cast (primarily Hannah Taylor-Gordon as Lina and Liev Schreiber as Mischa) are good, but overshadowed by Williams.

The character of Kirschbaum (played by Armin Mueller-Stahl) filled me with sadness and represents a clear statement of the evils of Nazism. A world-famous cardiologist, Kirschbaum, because he is Jewish, is forbidden to practice medicine, and ends up cleaning toilets. Mueller-Stahl plays the character with a quiet dignity, and next to Williams is the clear highlight of the movie.

This movie represents a wonderful testimony to the importance of hope in helping people see themselves through what must seem to be impossible situations. Although fictional, it is an important movie for those with an interest in the events of this era.


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