The film is based on the true story of Zishe Breitbart, a Jewish blacksmith's son from Poland who becomes a sensation in Weimar, Berlin as a mythical strongman. His employer Hanussen dreams of establishing an all-powerful Ministry of the Occult in Hitler's government. Yet as Hitler's hold on power grows more sure, and Berlin erupts in a ferment of anti-Semitism, Zishe must decide how he will use his strength. Plagued by nightmares, he takes counsel from a local rabbi. He becomes convinced that he has been chosen by God to warn his people of the grave danger they face. —Sujit R. Varma
Werner Herzog has always been one of my favorite filmmakers and it was hard to keep up with him when I joined the military so this was the first film of his I have seen in a theater since "Fitzcarraldo". I did like this film but its clearly not one of his best. As I watched this film I could not help but think of the other actors Herzog has used in the past and how they could be cast in this film. Of course Tim Roth would have had Klaus Kinski in his role. Eva Mattes would be Marta who's played by Anna Gourari and how many times has Herzog used a non actor in the lead? The cinematography is terrific and the period is beautifully detailed. The music is by Hans Zimmer and he is a legend but his score doesn't evoke the same haunting sounds that Popol Vuh did. I didn't mind the fact that Jouko Ahola as Zishe cannot act. He really isn't suppose to. Herzog is going for a more realistic response to the complexities of what is going on around him. Herzog has done this before with Bruno S. Tim Roth is excellent and I also liked the charm of Anna Gourari. And its always good to see Udo Kier! This film is certainly not up to "Aguirre" or "Nosferatu" or "Fitzcarraldo" but it is better than "Kaspar Hauser". Not great but its pure Herzog.
- Nov 25, 2002
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