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The Devil's Arithmetic
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Devil's Arithmetic (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

surprisingly good

Author: jep831 from Mojave Desert, California
20 December 2003

I think the movie is even better than the book, and the book is excellent. The movie changed Hannah and Rivkeh to be in their mid-teens rather than only about 11 as in the "Young Adult" novel. This might have been done for an "inside-the-box" reason, namely so that the director could work with more mature performers. But whatever the reason, the change was for the better, as it made the story more realistic to me -- I can "buy" that 16-year-olds could survive without parents in a concentration camp, but not 11-year-olds!

I expected a good performance from Kirsten Dunst, who is known for serious work. But the one who was a revelation was Brittany Murphy, more associated with (mediocre) light comedy (such as "Summer Catch" and "Just Married"). With dark hair, dark eyes and a believable Polish accent, she utterly disappears into the role of Rivkeh.

To answer a question posed by a previous poster, about why the great-aunt changed her name ... one reason, not obvious to the casual viewer, comes out of Jewish tradition. It is an old custom for a Jew, after having narrowly escaped death, to take a completely different first name. The (somewhat superstitious) belief is that you are trying to fool the Angel of Death; if you have a different name now, he won't realize it's you and therefore won't try to take you again! The other two reasons are more obvious: She was honoring her friend who sacrificed her life for her, and she was beginning a new life in America (many Jews and others took new names when they immigrated).

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A true Experience

Author: Brittany (AlmostaQt13@aol.com) from Illinois
7 April 2001

I have yet to read the book, but I can say that this movie is wonderful. This modern day teenager is taken back into the past to the time of the Holocaust, taken to a Nazi death camp, and experiences what really happened. I dont think many of us truly realized what it meant to be a Jew back then. Jews were treated as 'pets' in those camps, being branded, 'owned', and forced to work, which basically makes them slaves. I knew about the Holocaust before this movie, and I knew it was so terrible, but the reality of it never really hit me until this movie. But now I think I understand so much more. And I'm only 13. It shows the Jews when they first get to the camp, when they are forced to take off their clothes, put on other clothes which include a special coat with the Star or David on it, have their hair cut off, and get branded with a number on their arm for identification. And then we see how they lived, what they feared, and worst of all, how they died. I'd have to say the ending is what really hit me the most. I wont tell you what happened at the ending, but I will say, if you watch this movie with all your concentration and heart, you will feel a feeling you've probably never experienced, because you've probably never felt the real pain of torture and horror. And that it what this movie expresses.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A worthwhile Effort

7/10
Author: Nicholas Rhodes from Ile-de-France / Paris Region, France
4 February 2005

I had read about this film on a site about time-travel movies ( my favorite type of films) and had been waiting for it to come out on DVD. This has happened in the USA, and also in the UK and Belgium. Not so in France, however, where the film is TOTALLY unknown, a strange state of affairs for a country which is only now trying to atone for its treatment of its Jewish population of 60 years ago, whereas in most other countries, all that is past history.

I have read other comments about this film and there seem to be equal amounts of negative and positive comments. For my part, I firmly come out IN FAVOUR of the film. Picture quality is excellent, so is the acting. I do have qualms on certain issues ( the camps seem too clean and too small, the Nazis don't seem evil enough ) but this is a very subjective judgement, and all really depends on what the spectator is "looking for". Obviously he/she who prefers "the more sordid and the more violent (and therefore supposedly the more realistic - though that's a question for debate ) the better" will be disappointed. True, the film is somewhat sanitized. But this shortcoming, if it can be termed as such, is secondary. I see the film not as a documentary on the holocaust, nor a piece of anti-Nazi propaganda, but rather the journey of a young lady thru time into a fantasy world where she is "taught" the importance of her heritage. Other people have made the point, which I agree on, that the film is an "efficient" way of introducing the holocaust to children who may be ignorant of it - and on that score alone justifies its' having been made.

Obviously there is a moralistic tone "you-don't-care-about-your heritage-so-I'm-going-to-teach-you-a-lesson-you-won't-forget' but beyond that it's interesting to see how the young protagonist passes from modern life and body tattoos to completely different surroundings and somehow adapts to it. It is like someone being suddenly whisked from this life, for example, blown up in an explosion, and immediately reincarnating another body in another time frame. Of course, each and every one of us would react differently to this situation, but the film on that level at least seems highly plausible though obviously no one really knows what the experience would be like.

The film then, should not be taken as a documentary on the holocaust (there are plenty of those around with far more realistic (and gruesome) pictures). But it is a journey into fantasy and will doubtless please the school of thought that maintains that one's heritage is all-important to be able to appreciate one's life today.

The fact that in 2005 we are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps of death may have something to to with this film suddenly being issued on DVD in a certain number of countries.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Rather Good Film

Author: psychocharlie13 (psychocharlie13@home.com) from Seattle, WA
16 August 2001

I actually liked this when I saw it on TV. A lot of people probably saw the cut, shorter version on (station named after famous novel written down by Homer, following the Iliad) in the US. But I got to see the whole version, and, after having read the book several times, I can say that it is a very good book. It makes Hannah (or Chaya, in the book) look like the spoiled wild-child that the book did not develop enough, and the other characters were perfect in their roles. The acting was good, the sets were realistic and quaint, and the storyline is historically accurate, as well as to the mark on the book. In short, it's a very good film.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Dunst and Murphy provide moving performance

Author: buffelina22 from Bridgeport, CT
21 July 2000

Although I have not had the opportunity to read the novel, I felt that this film, despite its low-budget status, is well done, engaging and unequivocally moving.

The surprising highlight of the film is the portrayal of Hannah and Rivkah by Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. Dunst and Murphy bring an inner-strength to the protagonists leaving the viewer speechless as she/he inexorably contemplates the value of life, friendship and courage in the face of evil and physical/spiritual death.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

This movie finds a way to tell about a tragedy to young generation

10/10
Author: CDavisConvTTU from United States
20 February 2006

I believe that this movie was well acted as well as well thought out. The Question really is;"How do I tell young people about this terrible tragedy without being to graphic and still holding their attention. I think that the movie answered that question admirably. Kirsten Dunst is a great actress that showed her ability to tell a serious story with a sense of lightheartedness. Let's not forgot Brittany Murphy. She is a highly underrated actress who just barely broke the surface of what she can do in this movie. overall, if your looking to tell/show a group of preteen/teens the story of the holocaust without the brutality then this is the ONLY movie to show them.

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17 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

I'm quite amazed at the negative comments I see here

8/10
Author: rcs8 from State College PA
14 March 2005

The point of this film was not as much to be "great art" as it was to educate people about the Holocaust. In that sense, I think that many posters here are unfairly blasting it, holding it up to some high artistic standard. Believe it or not, there are many in this world, especially younger people, who have not clue one about the atrocities committed against the Jewish people. This film would be an excellent introduction (along with other films such as Diary of Anne Frank) for young people into this very real and recent historical nightmare. To read comments here about how bad the German accents were and how the Germans deserve better than this, lead me to suspect the sincerity of those posting them.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Emotionally Powerful and Excellent Education

9/10
Author: Corky2 from Canada
15 January 2006

While obviously this isn't a perfect education of the horrors of the Holocaust, it's not meant to be. This movie was based on a Young Adults' book, and it's transformed into a Young Adults' movie. It's not supposed to be a perfectly accurate portrayal, and it's not meant for historians or anything. But it is a touching film and excellent education for people to understand what it was like then. There are many powerful moments in the movie. A particularly impressive part, to me, was when Kirsten Dunst's character points to the number branded on her arm, and cries, "I wanted one of these!" referring to a tattoo. I think the highlight, however, was Brittany Murphy's incredible part. She was virtually unrecognizable, and her acting was superb. She literally threw herself into the part, and she shines. She truly is one of the greatest things about this movie.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Touching, Sad, Sweet, Powerful

10/10
Author: (missygoldstein@aol.com) from New York, NY
1 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We all heard of the Holocaust. We all know about the evil Nazis and the atrocities that happened during that horrible time, but none of us were there. It's hard to imagine what it was like and what those people went through.

This is the story of a modern girl in a Jewish family. She is not interested in hearing the stories of her relatives who survived the concentration camps because the idea is so foreign to her it's almost laughable.She reluctantly attends a passover seder with her parents where her aunts and uncles talk about "the camps" and she just dismisses the conversation. When she goes to put out the ceremonial cup of wine for Elijah, the profit she is transported in time to a village in Poland (I think it was poland). Everyone recognizes her as Hannah (her ancestor she was named after). She wakes up in a surreal "wizard of Oz like" setting where she is awaken after an apparent illness. Her "cousin" Rifka (played so sweetly by Brittany Murphy)tries to help her jar her "memory" of being her "cousin from Lublin" who is visiting". They walk through their quaint village as everyone is preparing for a wedding. Hannah is confused, but seems to just go with her new reality without too much question.

After the wedding is over several cars pull up to the village with Nazis with guns and trucks to transport the Jews to the camps. The people are scared and confused, but Hannah is the most terrified as she has the terrible forsight of what is about to happen.

She tries to figure out what is going on, whether she is dreaming, hallucinating, or what, but eventually realizes she is now a Jew in a concentration camp during world war 2 like it or not and she has to let fate play out.

This movie is powerful. To see the holocaust from the perspective of someone who already knows what has happened is chilling. From the time they arrive at the camp and are stripped of their clothes, dignity, money, possessions, have their hair shaved, are forced into slave labor and eventually murdered. Obviously the girl (hannah's) life would be changed forever if she ever woke up from the nightmare.

Great film.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good for a low-budgeted, made-for-tv-movie

Author: itooslik4u
15 April 2000

Taking place in modern-day times and in 1941, THe Devil's Aritmetic is well-presented and clever. However, it does not give you the realistic, heartbreaking effect that Schindler's List did. They should have given the audience a better effect by maybe spending a little more money. Kirsten Dinst "travels" back in time to a concentration camp and sees what the Jews went through. There she learns the story of some ancestors of her Jewish family. With a satisfying cast of Mimi Rogers, Kirsten Dunst, and many others, The Devil's Arithmetic is all in all not that bad.

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