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 ecce... Read allA 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.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.
Based on the book of the same title, "Illuminated" stars Elijah Wood as Jonathan Foer, a young Jewish American adult who is very quiet, but is an avid collector of things that are valuable or hold memories. In hopes of learning more about his grandfather's past (a Holocaust survivor from a Jewish shtetl in Ukraine), Jonathan travels there and enlists the help of a guide service, which includes a young Ukranian man named Alex who speaks amusing English (Eugene Hutz) and his crazy grandfather.
The film also marks the directorial debut of Liev Schreiber, whose wide shots, elongated moments of silence and written text scene transitions fall easily in line with that indie vibe. Most noticeable of all, however, is the music. Interestingly enough, supporting actor Eugene Hutz is the frontman of the band Gogol Bordello, which fuses that Eastern European folk sound with modern song structure and rhythms. I don't know if the soundtrack features Gogol Bordello music specifically, but it features that style and a lot of it. Music is very intentionally integrated at moments and not merely used as transitional fluff--the sign of a definite independent film. The style seems to represent the coming together of cultures and is very catchy and unique, adding to the easy-going, humorous beginning of the film.
Yes, the beginning is much funnier than I thought it would be, though this of course changes as the journey becomes more difficult for the unlikely trio and eventually as Jonathan finds more of what he is seeking. With the exception of a few moments, this is not a Holocaust- focused film that will disturb you. It is more about the historical significance from a much smaller perspective, of a person to generations past without which he would not exist. The film cherishes all that is sentimental, focusing on objects and artifacts (especially seeing as Jonathan is a collector) and understanding the ways the past can influence the present in the most basic of ways.
Anyone can relate to Jonathan's journey and that's the best part of this story. Maybe not to the character himself, who we really don't know all that much about given his timid nature, but definitely to memories and wanting to understand where we came from. We all have attachments to sentimental objects which is why objects have such a powerful significance in society and literature/film. Schreiber gets how important that is to the film and really nails it. "Illuminated" is a must-see for anyone whose Holocaust education is limited to textbooks and other movies, for those that haven't really heard the stories of the people who lived it.
- Aug 18, 2008