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Everything Is Illuminated (2005)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama | 14 October 2005 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Liev Schreiber

Writers:

Jonathan Safran Foer (novel), Liev Schreiber (screenplay)
7 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Eugene Hutz ... Alex
Elijah Wood ... Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer ... Leaf Blower
Jana Hrabetova Jana Hrabetova ... Jonathan's Grandmother
Stephen Samudovsky Stephen Samudovsky ... Jonathan's Grandfather Safran
Ljubomir Dezera ... Young Jonathan
Oleksandr Choroshko Oleksandr Choroshko ... Alexander Perchov, Father
Gil Kazimirov Gil Kazimirov ... Igor
Zuzana Hodkova Zuzana Hodkova ... Alex's Mother
Mikki Mikki ... Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.
Mouse Mouse ... Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.
Boris Lyoskin ... Grandfather (as Boris Leskin)
Robert Chytil Robert Chytil ... Breakdancer
Jaroslava Sochova Jaroslava Sochova ... Woman on Train
Sergei Ryabtsev Sergei Ryabtsev ... Ukrainian Band Member (as Sergej Rjabcev)
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Leave Normal Behind.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images/violence, sexual content and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian | Ukrainian

Release Date:

14 October 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Collector See more »

Filming Locations:

Czech Republic See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$7,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$66,806, 18 September 2005, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,705,595, 27 November 2005
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jonathan Safran Foer: appears as the leaf blower at the beginning of the film. See more »

Goofs

In the movie it is stated that the townspeople of Trachimbrod were murdered by Germans, while in fact the murderers were mostly Ukrainians with small Germans contingent. Source: sztetl.org.pl/en/article/zofiowka/5,history/ See more »

Quotes

Alex: You make sex often with American girl?
Jonathan: Not really.
Alex: What is mean by "not really?"
Jonathan: I'm not a priest, but I'm not John Holmes either.
Alex: I have heard of this John Holmes. He has premium penis.
Jonathan: Yes, he did.
Alex: Everyne in Ukraine has penis like that.
Jonathan: Even the women?
Alex: You make joke, yes?
Jonathan: Yes.
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Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

References Sin City (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Shakedown
Written by Jack Livesey
Performed by The Con Artists
Courtesy of Duotone Audio Group Ltd
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Review from 2005 TIFF
13 September 2005 | by riidSee all my reviews

I saw this movie at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated is the directorial debut of actor Liev Schreiber. Schreiber also wrote the screenplay. In the movie, Jonathan (Elijah Wood) obsessively collects items from his family, from toothbrushes to retainers to scraps of paper which he then seals in ziploc bags and pins to a wall in his house to record his family history. But the space for his grandfather is conspicuously bare. All Jonathan really has of him is a piece of jewelry and an old photo of him with a woman who hid him from the Nazis during the Second World War. Jonathan decides to undertake a quest to Ukraine to find the woman, thank her, and learn more about his grandfather.

His quest is aided there by a couple of characters who run a tourist company for Jewish people, including a young man obsessed with western culture (Eugene Hutz), his grandfather (Boris Leskin), who thinks he is blind and who may have memories and demons of his own from the war, and his grandfather's temperamental seeing eye dog.

The screenplay effectively combines both humour and drama as the three characters travel through the countryside looking for Jonathan's grandfather's town, driving deeper and deeper into the memories of the past. The best performance probably comes from Eugene Hutz, playing Alex Jr., who starts the movie as a tracksuit-wearing, break dancing slacker just out to have fun but evolves into something more as not only Jonathan, but all the characters gain their own illumination.

Liev Schreiber, Elijah Wood, and Eugene Hutz attended the screening and did a very humorous Q&A after the film:

  • Schreiber was very close to his grandfather, who was a Ukranian immigrant, and who died in 1993. This caused him to start to write to get his memories down on paper. Meanwhile, he was asked to do a reading of Foer's short story, The Very Rigid Search, which was an excerpt from the still unpublished novel. Schreiber was blown away by the quality of the writing, saying that Foer had done in 15 pages what Schreiber tried to do in 107. Schreiber approached Foer and they talked about their grandfathers, culture, movies, and the nature of short-term memory in America; in the end, Foer agreed to let Schreiber adapt the book.


  • Schreiber's own project was intended to be a road movie, but the book has parallel narrative that is an imagined chronological history of the town of Trochenbrod that spans 500 years; given his budget and limitations as a filmmaker, he said he'd leave that to Milos Forman and take the road trip instead. This imagined chronology was what moved him to make the movie in the first place, the idea that "a past lovingly imagined was as valuable as a past accurately recalled".


  • Schreiber said the movie was a series of happy accidents. After searching unsuccessfully in Ukraine for an actor, he was walking through the Lower East Side in New York, when he saw a poster of a woman centaur, topless from the waist up, with an insane cossack sitting astride her. Under the poster said the name Gogol Bordello Ukranian Punk Gypsy Band.


Eugene Hutz then took over the story. He had never pursued acting as music was his first passion. One day, a friend gave him the book, and he thought it was written in a manner similar to how he writes music; screw sentences/syntax, language is my own.

Later, they got a call from a production company, looking for eastern European music that was medieval but modern. Hutz met with Schreiber, and he soon found the movie was based on the book he just happened to be reading. Not long after that came up, Schreiber asked Hutz what he thought about Alex and whether he could do the character by any chance.

  • Foer and Schreiber talked about the film in the fall of 2001, shortly after the events of September 11. Both were in Europe at the time and they talked about the derogatory comments they were hearing about Americans, which led Schreiber to want to try to find an articulate American who would defy the stereotype that Europeans have of Americans. Someone who was awkward, vulnerable, flawed, innocent, and looking for history beyond the borders of his own country. Schreiber started thinking about who that was, and Elijah came up.


One of Schreiber's inspirations as a filmmaker is Emir Kusturica (I think that's who he said, who also directed a segment in another festival movie, All the Invisible Children) who said "you don't look for the actors, you look for the people." Schreiber said there is something about who Elijah is that he has a generosity of spirit and a sincere goodness as a human being, that came across on film. Schreiber said that the eyes are important when trying to articulate a character who is an observer, and that if "eyes are the doors to the soul, Elijah's are garage doors."

  • Elijah Wood had fun with a question about the similarities between his character Kevin in Sin City and Jonathan in this movie as both are sort of a blank slate on which emotions are projected. Wood replied that Jonathan may seem still and seemingly emotionless, but it is all about his observations, about his experiences with other characters and the environment he was in.


  • On the differences between directing and writing: Schreiber said he likes writing a lot more and jokingly described directing as "hell". After his grandfather died, Schreiber started to think about how to preserve some sense of history and himself; is he content driven or not, or just good at interpreting other people's work? He said he loved the exercise of figuring out what is emotional to you, important to you.


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