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Jakob the Liar (1999)

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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 »



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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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 (41) »


He will make you believe. See more »


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


$45,000,000 (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?


The film takes place in 1944. See more »


At the beginning of the film, when Jakob starts chasing the paper, it is clearly light outside, even though it is 7:30 pm in the winter in Poland. Then, 25 minutes later, when Jakob told to go to the police building, it is quite dark. In the winter, the sun would have completely set hours before. 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."
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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 »


Version of Jacob the Liar (1974) 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

Engrossing tale of hope kept alive in a wartime Jewish ghetto
22 April 2006 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Personally, I found very touching & heart wrenching this story of one man's efforts to lift spirits in a World War II Jewish ghetto in Poland. Many have compared it to Life is Beautiful, and there are some similarities. I can understand why some viewers take offense at any film which might seem to trivialize the Holocaust, but I found Life is Beautiful not disrespectful but deeply moving, and consider this particular tale to be a captivating depiction of one individual's unique attempt to keep hope alive in a desperate situation.

The story revolves around a lonely Polish shopkeeper & widower, Jakob, who is confined to a Jewish ghetto in 1944. When summoned to ghetto headquarters for being out after curfew, he hears a radio report about Russian troop movements. To prevent a friend's suicide, he claims to have heard on his radio that the Russians are very close (within a few hundred kilometers) and will liberate the ghetto soon, causing rumours that Jakob has a secret radio. Instead of telling the truth, he tries to lift spirits and impart hope to the war weary & depressed ghetto inhabitants by maintaining the fiction of possessing this radio, and regularly disseminating uplifting fictional news bulletins about the Allies' progress. Meanwhile, Jakob is also hiding a young Jewish girl who escaped from a camp transport. The Germans hear reports of this forbidden radio and are seeking out the resistance operator of it.

Robin Williams dominates this movie and is brilliant as usual in the endearing, sympathetic role of the kind Jakob who must try to balance getting out lots of hopeful (if fictitious) war reports to keep spirits up while at the same time avoid Nazi suspicion and detection.

The movie portrays the despair of the ghetto's inhabitants and the grave injustice of their captive state. For example, Jewish people are prohibited from practicing medicine and a cardiologist is reduced to cleaning toilets, though does so with good humour, grace, and dignity. On the whole it is a very poignant tale, with any humour having a sad note to it. Jakob the Liar shows another tragic aspect of the Holocaust. Rather than the horrors of the concentration camps that are often the setting of such stories, here we see the injustice and despair of prolonged ghetto captivity.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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