Invincible

Following a string of documentaries, Werner Herzog returns with his first dramatic feature in a decade, and though it's based on the true story of Zische Breitbart, a Polish Jew whose feats of strength astounded Weimar Berlin, it unfolds with the elemental power of a legend. Zische (Jouko Ahola), a simple blacksmith from a modest family, is lured away from his shtetl by a wily theatrical agent, and once he arrives in Berlin he's booked at a cabaret presided over by a wicked clairvoyant (Tim Roth). At first Zische performs in a blond wig as “Siegfried, the Iron King,” part of the seer's scheme to curry favor with high-ranking Nazis, but after the strongman reveals his racial identity to the audience and declares himself “the new Samson,” he begins drawing a combustible mix of brownshirts and defiant Jews. Ahola, a Finnish bodybuilder twice named “the Strongest Man in the World,” makes his screen debut in this English-language film, and though his acting is unschooled, to say the least, Herzog shrewdly uses his blunt sincerity to counterpoint Roth's spectacularly icy performance. 135 min.

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