6.5/10
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The Devil's Arithmetic (1999)

Not Rated | | Drama, Fantasy, War | TV Movie 28 March 1999
A 16-year-old American girl with an apathetic view towards her Jewish family history finds herself pulled through time into 1941 to a small Polish village where the Nazi have just began their genocidal propaganda.

Director:

Donna Deitch

Writers:

Jane Yolen (novel), Robert J. Avrech (teleplay)
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3 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirsten Dunst ... Hannah Stern
Brittany Murphy ... Rivkah
Paul Freeman ... Rabbi
Mimi Rogers ... Leonore Stern
Louise Fletcher ... Aunt Eva
Lilo Baur Lilo Baur ... Mina
Nitzan Sharron Nitzan Sharron ... Ariel
Shelly Skandrani ... Leah
Daniel Brocklebank ... Shmuel
Kirsty McFarland Kirsty McFarland ... Yetta
Rachel Roddy Rachel Roddy ... Esther
Ieva Jackeviciute Ieva Jackeviciute ... Miriam
Philip Rham Philip Rham ... Commandant Krieger
Daniel Rausch Daniel Rausch ... Officer Steinbach
Polina Soloveicik Polina Soloveicik ... Sarah (as Paulina Soloveicik)
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Storyline

This is another telling of the holocaust, but this time from the perspective of a modern teenage girl who only grudgingly accepts the Jewish traditions, but when she is asked to "open the front door" as part of the Seder feast finds herself, not unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, to have entered the 1940's and has stepped into the life of a prisoner in one of the German death camps where she experiences all of its horrors firsthand. Written by BOB STEBBINS <stebinsbob@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Live to tell

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 March 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Arithmetic See more »

Filming Locations:

Ontario, Canada See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie is based off the book "The Devils Arithmetic" written by Jane Yolen. See more »

Quotes

Rivkah: Which is worse, knowing or not knowing?
See more »

Connections

References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A worthwhile Effort
4 February 2005 | by nicholas.rhodesSee all my reviews

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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