"The Believer" explores a Jewish student's private journey to understand the meaning of Judaism in his life. Set in New York City, the Plot follows a morally confused young adult struggling with the conflict between his beliefs and his heritage. "The Believer" examines themes of religion, family, and self-loathing. It is a psychological examination into the forces of intolerance, both on the individual and society as a whole. Written by
Critically acclaimed, grand-jury prize winner at Sundance Festival in January 2001, then appeared on Showtime pay-cable in March 2002, before finally being released theatrically in NYC, May 2002. See more »
In the final synagogue segment, while the congregation is singing "Aveenu Malchenu," they keep changing keys from shot to shot, up a half-step and down a half-step and back up again again, indicating a string of takes edited together. See more »
Inspired by real events, The Believer tells the story of a young Jewish man who is contradicted by his beliefs in neo-nazism. Ryan Gosling (Remember the Titans) plays Danny Balint, a Jew by birth and upbringing, who's ideas about the religion lead him into a world of denial and hate. Flashbacks show the viewer how Danny struggled with his early teachings of the faith and his lack of understanding would result in his decision to be a practicing, race-hating skinhead.
Along the way, Danny meets up with Lina and Curtis played graciously by Theresa Russell and Billy Zane who want to recruit Danny and use his persuasive talents to advance their cause as fascists. It is in his first meeting with this couple that Danny also meets Carla (Summer Pheonix), a confused young girl who eventually befriends Danny and soon begins her quest to best understand the Jews through their language and traditions.
In a later scene, Danny finds himself at a white supresmist training camp and meets other skinheads with the same hatred and desire to rid themselves of the Jewish population. Danny befriends the group and garnishes their respect with his fighting tactics, and on one fateful night, the group land themselves in jail after initiating a fight with two blacks on the street.
It is here that the most disturbing and challenging scene of the movie takes place where the group is forced by the courts to enter counselling for their crime. This counselling would include Jews who survived the holocust who tell their story to the unappreciated skinhead audience. While the others argue that the Holocost never occurred, Danny is haunted by the story of an elderly man who tells of a German Soldier who stabbed and killed his son with a bayonette during World War II.
This then leads Danny down two separate paths. On one side, he is a race hating monger, who begins to build bombs for the purpose of blowing up a synagogue. The other, a conflicted man of the Judaism faith who teaches Hebrew to his girlfriend and still practices the basics of the religion (don't light the candles at Yom Kippur before eating).
Director/writer Henry Bean does a masterful job of keeping the pace of the movie going, while not being preachy or dumbing down to the audience. The director crafts the film and does not shy away from religious interpretations (why can Jews have cheese with meat, but they can have chicken with milk), without giving us his version of the answers. Dannys scene with the reporter from the New York Times is both honest and gripping in its language and its portrayal of a man trying to justify his racist views.
Portrayed as an articulate and intelligent youth, Ryan Gosling sparkles on the screen and gives a commanding presence that is award winning material. He reveals the character to be someone of higher intelligence who hates his religion because he just can't understand all its principles. When Danny is first confronted with an opportunity to kill a Jew, he can't bring himself to promote the results that he preaches.
In short, the movie has powerful moments, great acting and tells an unbelievable story of one man's quest to understand the world he was brought up in. B+
24 of 30 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?