A young Jewish American man endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village, that was ultimately razed by the Nazis, with the help of an eccentric local.
Jewish-American writer Jonathan Safran Foer is a collector of his family's memorabilia, although most of the items, some which he takes without asking, would not be considered keepsakes by the average person. He places most of those items in individual Ziploc bags, and hangs them on his keepsake wall under the photograph of the person to who it is most associated. He has this compulsion in an effort to remember. He is able to tie a photograph that he receives from his grandmother, Sabine Foer, on her deathbed - it of his grandfather, Safran Foer, during the war in the Ukraine, and a young woman he will learn is named Augustine - back to a pendant he stole from his grandfather on his deathbed in 1989, the pendant of a glass encased grasshopper. Learning that Augustine somehow saved his grandfather's life leads to Jonathan going on a quest to find out the story at its source where the photograph was taken, in a now non-existent and probably largely forgotten town called Trachimbrod that...Written by
The blue car used throughout the movie is a Trabant 601 Kombi/Estate. See more »
When Jonathan, Alex, his grandfather and Lista meet by the river, the moon is full, but it was only three-quarters full the night before. However, this could have been a creative choice by the filmmakers to show that "everything is illuminated" in that scene. See more »
This is Grandfather. Like my father and myself, he too is dubbed Alex. My grandmother, Anna, died two years before of a cancer in her brain. Precluding this, Grandfather became very melancholy, and also, he says, blind. His most recent employment was Heritage Tours, a business he started in 1950s, mostly for aiding rich Jewish people to search for their dead families. It is a strange employment for Grandfather, as there is nothing he hates more than rich Jewish people *or* their ...
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Several songs are credited to the New York punk/Gypsy/Jewish klezmer band, Gogol Bordello, which is led by Eugene Hutz, who plays Alex in the film (the same band greets Jonathan when he arrives on the train). The last of these songs, "Start Wearing Purple (For Me Now)," which plays over the end credits, is credited to both a correct spelling (Gogol Bordello), dg and Gogol Bodello, an incorrect spelling. See more »
Without the ballast of the book's historical sections, the film floats away a bit.
I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. Based upon the acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safron Foer, Everything Is Illuminated is the directorial debut of actor Liev Schreiber. An audacious choice, since the novel is multi-layered and very "meta", but Schreiber, who also wrote the screenplay, handles the material with ease, for the most part.
Elijah Wood (looking as doll-like as ever, and wearing glasses that magnify his already-huge eyes to make the not-so-subtle point that he is an observer) plays Jonathan, a man obsessed with collecting things from his family's history. When his grandmother hands him a photograph from 1940 saying, "Your grandfather wanted you to have this," it sends Jonathan off on a voyage of discovery. The picture is of his grandfather in Ukraine, standing with an unknown woman who, according to his grandmother, saved him from the Nazis, allowing him to escape to America.
Jonathan duly turns up in Ukraine, where he hopes to unravel the mystery of the woman in the photograph. His tour guides turn out to be a little unnerving to the fussy and obsessive vegetarian. His translator Alex is like a Ukrainian version of Sasha Baron-Cohen's Ali G and Borat characters rolled into one, and is played by newcomer Eugene Hutz, the frontman for the "gypsy punk" band Gogol Bordello, who contribute several songs to the soundtrack. While I thought his accent in the film was just an outrageous parody, during the Q & A, I realized it was actually his real voice (or maybe not. It could be part of the shtick.). Alex's grandfather, the driver, thinks he is blind and is accompanied everywhere by Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., his "seeing-eye bitch." Alex's mangled English leads to many laughs, and the middle section of this road movie is easily the most enjoyable.
Things get a bit more serious when they find the woman in the photograph, but here, in a section of the film called "The Illumination," I found myself still a little in the dark. Perhaps in ironing out a few of the book's twists, something was lost, but I found the "mystery" either confusing or not so mysterious, and actually felt a little unsatisfied by the end.
However, the film is shot and edited beautifully, the acting is fine, and the directing sure- handed. Schreiber admitted that the stuff in the book that he left out of the film was the stuff that attracted him to the idea in the first place. Which is an odd thing to say, really. The book contains an imagined history of the shtetl where Jonathan's grandfather was raised, a place with hundreds of years of history which is wiped out by the Nazis in a few hours. I think this background would have given the film the weight it needed at the end of the journey. Without that ballast, the film floats away a bit.
Nevertheless, this is an assured debut from Schreiber, and I look forward to seeing what he chooses for his next project.
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