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Adam Resurrected Review

By David Kempler

Still Crazy After All These Years


When people get together to put out product as ambitious as "Adam Resurrected" it is next to impossible to gauge just how successful they have been in their undertaking. Without having read the book it is difficult to know whether or not the original author's vision is what we are viewing. All we can do is figure out for ourselves how much we enjoyed or didn't enjoy it. True, the same can be said for any film but this is a multi-layered story filled with symbolism, unspoken feelings and characters not in possession of their full faculties because of tortures they were forced to endure as part of the Holocaust.

Paul Schrader handles direction while Noah Stollman, the award winning Israeli screenwriter, handles the writing chores. Neither task could have been simple. Even though I did not read the novel, after watching "Adam Resurrected", I have little doubt that it is a story of enormous heft. The topic alone would pretty much guarantee that but the way it is told is sometimes captivating but at other times difficult to understand, in good part because our lead character, Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) flashes in and out of English, German and Yiddish and because he is prone to mumbling in all languages. There are times when you will find yourself wondering what he just said. After a while you'll figure out that it really doesn't matter because he is not all there anyway.

Adam, we learn through many flashbacks, was a famed magician/entertainer in Berlin before World War II. Because he is Jewish it is not difficult to see that this will probably not turn into a joyous storyline. At one of his shows, a gentleman named Klein (Willem Dafoe) is selected from the audience to participate in the act. The man is very hesitant and Adam quickly surmises that Klein is pondering suicide, a scene that leaves them both uncomfortable. When Adam later ends up in a Concentration Camp, the commanding officer turns out to be none other than Klein. While Klein spares Adam's life, he does subject him to endless degradation until the war comes to an end. In the present (1960's), Adam is a frequent inhabitant of an insane asylum in Israel but it is not the stereotypical dirty place filled with sadistic attendants. It is an experimental facility where Holocaust survivors are treated respectfully under almost idyllic surroundings.

Adam is haunted by the war and through his memories, delusions and moments of total clarity, we gain a full appreciation of what makes him tick, but it is only when a young boy who believes himself to be a dog is brought to the asylum that Adam finally faces up to his personal demons.

Goldblum does a phenomenal job as Adam. Throughout his career I have often found him to be a bit over the top for my tastes but in this role his acting style perfectly complements the role, creating an acting tour de force and easily his strongest screen presence that I can recall. Dafoe is perfect as the sadistic but pathetic little man that is thrust into a position with almost godlike powers over others.

"Adam Resurrected" is not easy viewing but not because of the usual goriness attached to films about the Holocaust. While there is a bit of gore, what makes it difficult to watch is its almost whirlwind pace, filled with chaos that is hard to digest at times. This is the problem with ambitious moviemaking. It demands that the audience pay attention. Some may find it discomforting because of this. Others will be enthralled. I was closer to the latter. Most importantly, I was not bored for a single moment. Any time I can say that I'm more than satisfied.

What did you think?

Movie title Adam Resurrected
Release year 2008
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary A fiercely brilliant and creative man is in an asylum dealing with his demons in this thought-provoking exploration of an immensely damaged psyche.
View all articles by David Kempler
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