Jakob the Liar

100 minutes 2013

The fine line between hope and fantasy runs through this East German drama (1975), which copped an Oscar nomination for best foreign feature. The title character, a manual laborer in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, concocts a story that he's hiding a radio and hearing news reports of an imminent Russian invasion; this charade makes him a popular man and rescues his neighbors from despair, though the longer he keeps it up the deeper he digs himself in. A novel by Jurek Becker supplied the story, which might call to mind Roberto Benigni's hanky-wringer Life Is Beautiful but unfolds with greater solemnity and restraint. Robin Williams starred in the Hollywood remake (1999), which I haven't seen and now don’t think I want to see. Frank Beyer (The Turning Point, also screening this week) directed, and Vlastimil Brodsky stars as Jacob; look sharp for Armin Mueller-Stahl in an early supporting role. In German with subtitles.

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