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Jakob the Liar
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Jakob the Liar More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: brooke_lw_24 from United States
11 March 2006

This movie is amazing. i am only 15 and i think everyone no matter what race or religion should see this to see how awful things must have been. Robin Williams did a beautiful job jumping out of his funny roles and transitioning to such a serious role. it made me cry it is so heart touching. this is a beautiful movie. i would suggest it to anyone. This movie is about hope and dream and he made them come true. i cannot stress how lovely this movie is. just awesome. i didn't remember the name until i looked up movies he starred in and when i did it came to me by seeing the list. thats how much of an impact it had on me. i even think schools should show this movie. wonderful.2 thumbs up.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

When all hope was lost, I turned the movie off.

Author: dichotomy
18 October 2001

This movie was a shocker. It was little more than another potential Oscar vehicle for Williams who seemed to forget that an Oscar winning performance requires more than the addition of a Ghetto, a few nazi uniforms and a thick Polish accent.

The plot was transparent, the characters cliched and the ending....... could it get any worse? A few witty lines did little to add humour to the situation, and didn't detract from the fundamental lack of originality that this movie possessed.

Although there has been comparisons to Life is Beautiful, I fail to see how anyone recognises the similarities. Life is beautiful was a masterfully gifted story of hope and survival; Jakob the Liar promised so much but delivered so little.

Williams' brief reprisal of his Good Morning Vietnam talent as a "radio announcer" was the only part that caught my interest and that was out of sheer nostalgia. Don't bother renting this movie- should you ever feel the urge, turn on the Bold and the Beautiful.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The Worst Movie I have ever seen

Author: lvnsuede16 from Brooklyn, NY
9 April 2002

I've seen Wild Wild West, I've seen Orgasmo, and I've even seen Roseta. NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING is as bad as Jakob the Liar. This film had no drama, a terrible story, poorly developed characters, bad accents, you NAME IT this film had it. I'm sorry I saw it, I wish I could wipe its memory from my brain permanently. I love movies, I love Robin Williams, I even love Alan Arkin BUT THIS WAS TERRIBLE!!!!!!!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A terrible, disgusting, festering sore of a Holocaust film.

Author: Nuada7
1 December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This will include ***SPOILERS***, but take my advice now and don't ever see this movie. Jakob the Liar is based on the Jurek Becker novel "Jakob, der Lügner" (the same title, but in German). The 1975 film with an untranslated and identical title was the first film adaptation and actually the original idea for the text. The East German film production companies at the time would not make the movie, so Becker wrote a novel. The novel was published in both Germanies at the same time and was huge, so the movie idea became a reality and was also published in both Germanies at the same time. Stick with the originals on this, please, I cannot stress this enough.

The 1999 Jakob the Liar is an affront to the memory of the Holocaust. This COMEDY focuses around the character of Jakob, a Jewish café owner who now lives in an unnamed Jewish ghetto in Poland, about 400km southwest of Bezanika. Jakob is portrayed by Robin Williams, who, of late, has tried to shift the stereotype of his quite length string of goofy comedies to more serious roles (Patch Adams, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, etc.). It brings me no pleasure to say that he fails in this film. His goofy smile, jokes in pitiful context, and even some work with crazy voices all seem immensely out of place. The film is about bringing hope to the hopeless and doomed to die, not about bringing an occasional laugh to a viewer who couldn't bear to actually take a movie seriously.

Apart from the many pointless changes in this movie from the original film, there are quite a number of rather detracting changes that succeed only in making the whole tale much more unbelievable. Max Frankfurter (Felix in the original) seems to have kept a sizeable portion of wealth with him while most of the city fell into absolute squalor. In addition to hiding a radio (as he did in the original), he also has a working German revolver as a prop he used in his days as an actor, but he also has hidden a fine chess set (checkers in the original) and what appears to be a couple of sets of china and crystal. Professor Kirchbaum (just Professor originally) also has a rather large and well-decorated home (for the ghetto), and has managed to hang on to some medicine, a large set of crystalware, and a bottle of fine brandy. Jakob himself--while he doesn't have a radio--has managed to keep a turntable in pristine condition down in his café. Apparently, in this ghetto, the Nazis didn't even bother opening a closet to confiscate contraband from the imprisoned Jews.

Comical music plays every time the Jews are lined up to be fed, and they apparently dance around in line under orders before eating. Either this is some bizarre Nazi custom that has simply never before been addressed, or it just makes no sense whatsoever. Jakob's friend Kowalski also seems to have a wonderful time giving Jakob his free shave every day, regardless of any work that he or anyone else at his shop might have to do. Work days in the ghetto weren't exactly short, and didn't leave one happy and ready to go play.

During one work day, Herschel (Herschel Schtamm in the original) is shot for talking to whomever is imprisoned in the train. In the original, he sneaks up behind the car and the rest of the Jews carry on work to avoid suspicion. In this new version, the entire freaking work crew steps up and stares at Herschel as he makes a break to tell news to the train prisoners. Way to work together.

In the original, Jakob tells Mischa about the radio so that Mischa will not try to steal potatoes and get himself killed before even reaching the crates. He only speaks of news later in passing, and even then very rarely. In the new version, Jakob indulges the lies, making them grand and ridiculous. Yes, this plays on the peoples' need to hope, but it also makes the news much more comical and out-of-place.

Jakob finds Lina outside the walls, and insists on sneaking back in instead of chancing it outside. They had a better chance of living if they were out, as all ghettos were eventually liquidated; they were fortunate to have lasted until 1944. They sneak back in through a hole in the fence. If they knew about such an easy way to escape, why not tell people so that at least some could flee? In any case, it was more real than the radio.

In this film, Jakob is tortured and martyred, refusing to destroy the hopes of the ghetto prisoners. The Nazis could easily have shot him sooner, but they first attempted to break the morale of a ghetto that was going to be shipped off to the death camps in less than twenty-four hours anyway. How brilliant. The prisoners are then loaded onto the train and shipped off, only to be saved 50km outside of town by a Russian tank division who, for some reason, had a small band traveling with them (the accordion and accompaniment, not the dream sequence). What a nice and happy and TOTALLY UNREALISTIC ending to a comical movie about the Holocaust. In the original, Jakob, Lina, Mischa, Rosa, and everybody else are all shipped off in the trains and the film fades to black. Any ideas about a Russian division saving them are simply naïve. They all died, and that was the reality of life in the ghetto. Jurek Becker (the author, remember) spent eight years in the camps himself. He survived, but he wasn't part of any majority. It wasn't an unlucky few that were gassed and incinerated; it was six million people, and that was just the Jews. That's like killing everyone in the state of Washington and then making a movie about an entire city that survived by some random stroke of luck. It didn't happen that way, and that's not how it should be remembered. Hollywood needs to open its eyes if it thinks that this is any kind of representation of the Holocaust.

1/10 It might deserve more as a solitary film without any context at all, but this is a movie about the Holocaust. Disgusting.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Too much Hollywood

Author: Ascalon from Germany
29 November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At first, "Jakob The Liar" is quite a good film... if you have not read the book by Jurek Becker.

I read the book before I knew the movie was shot, but all the time I thought "If there is a movie, Robin Williams would be the best Jacob." Well, I was right. There is nothing to complain about RW.

BUT: There is a lot to complain about the movie. (Spoilers)

The End is completely wasted. In the book, there are two endings. Becker writes: "This story could end on two ways: The one I'd like to have, and the one that happened."

Hollywood shows us the "Happy End", in which Jakob dies as a hero. But the "real" end is far more depressing: Jacob was deported and dies with the little girl in Auschwitz. Short and without every romance in it.

This is the "magic moment" of the book, and as it's not in the movie, the movie will NEVER be really good. After all, it shows the "American Look" on Nazi-Germany: Good guys here, Bad guys there. OFC it's right, but a little bit short handed.

Okay, it's hard to show the whole spectrum of this time. Neither "Schindler's List" nor "Jakob The Liar" can do this. Okay, okay, they don't have to. But watch "Stalingrad", a german movie about WWII, and you'll see another view of all this.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

It's biggest crime was it came AFTER La Vita E Bella

Author: John Langbein (medrjel) from Dixie, USA
30 October 2003

I heard a lot of critics complain about this movie. I absolutely liked this film. However, it had 2 major failings:

1) It was a remake of a East German classic that was award-worthy, and had a high standard to the art film critics.

2) A Beautiful Life (La vita E Bella) had won best picture accolades 1 year earlier, and the stories have many similarities.

Neither of these are the fault of the movie. They were just 2 insurmountable odds it had to fight. For that reason, the movie failed miserably.

However, it really is a good movie. I can't speak for the original version, but I can say that while this movie was good, it's just not great.

Robin Williams does a great job as the reluctant "hero" and the supporting cast was solid. When Robin is controlled in his performance, he can really shine and this definitely shows you what is to come from him in the near future for dramatic roles. There is still some humor, but it's directed and not totally off the wall.

If you are interested in this era of history, I would recommend this movie.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Depressing but quite good

Author: grahamsj3 from United States
2 July 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The story of Jewish life in a Nazi ghetto during WW2, this is very depressing. I believe the reality was probably much worse than depicted here (they have electricity in the film) and everyone seems quite well-fed. At any rate, rumors get started within the ghetto that Jakob (Robin Williams) has a forbidden radio. Everyone presses him for news so he begins to make it up. He is believed and the Jews take great hope in his good tidings. Eventually, however, the Nazis find out and someone must pay. I'll not spoil it for you. I think this is a very worthwhile film. Robin Williams is excellent in it. It is nowhere near factual but wasn't intended to be. Give it a watch.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Can't believe Robin Williams did it...

Author: ARRI535BL
22 August 2002

Ok, let's be honest, that film is NOT 'Schindler's List' and (except Williams) doesn't have any one Liam Neeson or Ben Kingsley lookalike credited. Don't expecting anything new I spent my time on this film. I don't feel sorry for them, but... Everything except Williams' acting is lower than average - wooden directing, so-so dialogues... It possibly was about to repeat the triumph of 'Life is Beautiful' (which I simply dislike in any way)but remains a grey copy of a Bravado a-la-Benigni. Robin Williams here is great (as everywhere) of course, but this is surely not the director's triumph, I cannot see any directing here... And listen, people, does Robin Williams associate in your mind with this Kind Jewish Grandpa somewhere in occupied Poland or Hungary? I think not. I think it will rather be 'Good Will Hunting' (I think brilliant role), 'Mrs. Doubtfire', or 'Hook'. And 'Schindler's List' looks so shocking and realistic mostly because we did not have Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise as Schindler, Julia Roberts as his wife, and Bradd Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks (and so on and so on and so on) as miserable jews. Only that way the story can be told as powerful and thought provoking as it was done by Steven Spielberg. Or maybe I misunderstood something? Maybe that's another Holocaust comedy? Then it's thousand time worse. Even worse than "Life is Beautiful' And then I've read somewhere on IMDB that this movie costs about $20 millions. Whaaat? 'Schindler's List' was about $32 millions. Is that a joke? Ok. Ok. On the whole I cannot strongly recommend you this one, cause this movie is so inert, empty like... I even don't know what. Seems like Peter Kassovitz didn't care much of this topic - it's not even 10% as deep as in Spielberg's heart. So what we have is a pretentious movie which you'll forget as easy as you watch it.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I would be a Liar to say this is a classic.

Author: John Taylor ( from Bedfordshire, England
8 July 2002

Why is it that Robin Williams hasn't made a descent film for years? We have had to endure crap like Flubber and Jamanji and while this is no where near as bad as those two movies it is a patch on The Fisher King or Good morning Viet Nam. This film is depressing and i suppose the subject matter can be nothing but wht makes it so Disapointing is that the setting looks cheap. There are some very good actors in this movie but the budget must have been spent bon their wages and not the set. Perhaps im being a little unfair because Jacob the Liar is not a bad film and a 6 out of 10 rating that i give it shows that but it could have been so much better. Next time you read a script Mr Williams try going fot one with less Smaltz because who can forget Patch Adams? AAAHHHHH! 6 out of 10.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Another View

Author: Stephi ( from USA, mostly
21 May 2002

Let me say, first that I enjoyed the movie intensely. It is a different kind of Holocaust film--showing the monotony as defined by the small breaks a highly sarcastic Jewish sense of humour provides. The characters are all relatively well developed--well enough that their performances are more like windows into their lives than a documentation of their entire existence--as some movies can make the characters seem flat an uninteresting, this movie reveals each characters' wrinkles of personality. The set is realistic, the script smart, the story one that you will want to go back to.

Particularly, I think this is a good movie to introduce younger or more sensitive audiences to the history of the Polish Ghettos. Realism that deepens if you have a backround familiarity w/the issues at hand, it is not overwhelming--despite the inevitable (although poignantly unexpected) culmination of a whirlwind of events which unfold w/the introduction of news to the Ghetto. Classically themed cultural interpretations of the forced lifestyle of the characters promotes the effect of a rumour that a working radio exists in the Ghetto, allowing a lowly pancake-vendor to raise to heroic proportions amidst his small group of associates and lie in the face of hope-dashing truth (w/the support of the medicine-less cardiologist). The story lends credence to the irrefutable spirit of human life despite seemingly unsurmountable odds as Jakob deals w/the consequences of either perpetuating his lie or coming out w/the whole truth, weighing hope against despair. Swept up in his own joking accident and a few well-timed coincidences, endorsed by the Ghetto residents, the Ghetto organizes to resist their Nazi oppressors. As the fall of the Third Reich becomes more and more likely, the tangle of truth and falsity tightens around Jakob and each lie becomes more and more needed.

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