A Groundbreaking Holocaust Film?
I normally look forward (if that is the right expression) to movies about the Holocaust. But I don’t know how I feel about this one:
German and Israeli filmmakers have come together to tackle the subject of the Holocaust for the first time in an ambitious screen adaptation of a bestselling novel.
Their groundbreaking collaboration over the highly sensitive topic has attracted a star-studded cast in what has been described as a ‘tightrope walk’ of a project. Adam Resurrected, based on a darkly comic 1969 novel by popular Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk, tells the story of Adam Stein, a Jewish-German clown who is forced to entertain inmates in a Nazi concentration camp. His life is spared only because he plays his violin for the prisoners being sent to the gas chamber.
Jeff Goldblum is to play the part of Adam, while Willem Dafoe will play the concentration camp commandant who forces him to act like a dog. Goldblum has described it as ‘the most difficult role I have ever had to play’. Directed by Paul Schrader, who is best known for his screenplay for Taxi Driver, and produced by the Israeli Ehud Bleiberg and the German Werner Wirsing, the harrowing film has been compared to Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning Holocaust ‘black comedy’ Life is Beautiful.
One German critic wrote that Adam Resurrected was a ‘risky tightrope walk which, if it is too funny, is in danger of mocking Holocaust survivors, if it is too serious, misrepresents the character of the book’.
Top German actors such as Moritz Bleibtreu and Veronica Ferres also have starring roles along with several Israeli household names such as Ayelet Zurer, who was in Steven Spielberg’s Munich.
It is genuinely exciting to see German and Israeli filmmakers joining forces to explore the darkest chapter in the history of both countries. Yet I wonder if this story is the right one for such a groundbreaking collaboration. Many people whose judgment I respect loved “Life is Beautiful,” but I absolutely loathed it, for all the reasons Charles Taylor of Salon.com discusses here. I hope “Adam Resurrected” does not follow in its predecessor’s footsteps, trivializing the slaughter of millions of innocents by turning the Holocaust into a backdrop for slapstick comedy, but I’m not optimistic. We’ll see.