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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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

A scene from this movie appears in Wag the Dog (1997) as the faked footage of an orphan in Albania. See more »

Quotes

Commandant Krieger: You know why we don't allow babies: they can't work!
See more »

Connections

References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

surprisingly good
20 December 2003 | by jep831See all my reviews

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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