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USA 2008
Directed by
Paul Schrader
106 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Adam Resurrected

Paul Schrader’s work as a screenwriter, particularly for Martin Scorsese, has been much more successful than his directorial efforts and his most recent film Adam Resurrected is not about to change that.

The story, adapted by from a novel by Yoram Kaniukis, is, to say the least, off-beat. Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), is being treated with other Holocaust survivors in a mental institution in Israel’s Negev Desert by Dr. Gross (Derek Jacobi). Adam was a famous German-Jewish cabaret performer in Berlin during the 1930s who survived the death camps because he impersonated a German Shepherd belonging to sadistic camp boss, Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe). He saved his own skin but his wife and daughter perished. He discovers that Dr.Gross is secretly treating a young boy (Tudor Rapiteanu), who has spent his entire life locked in a basement and chained to a wall and who as a result thinks that he's a dog. The brilliant and charismatic (and also inexplicably nattily dressed) Adam identifies with the boy and tries to save him and in so doing addresses his own demons.

Perhaps all this worked on the page to create a portrait of the deformation of the spirit in general and the trauma for Holocaust survivors in particular.  This sort of material  is certainly home turf for Schrader but he never manages to make it carry any emotional weight and his realization of it is quite devoid of dramatic impact. Goldblum is always watchable but his supercilious manner best serves dryly comedic roles. Here he fails to convey the suffering that is the essential aspect of the character.  And surely Schrader knows Cabaret (1970) and Seven Beauties (1975) both of which provide exemplary models for Stein’s back-story which is re-created with such lack of flair. And finally, in what way does the, once-again inexplicably, sexy Nurse Ratchet figure, Gina Grey (Ayelet Zuret) help give this story any depth? Whilst I would imagine Schrader had to deal with budgetary limitations, with so much talent and experience on board, it is a mystery why this is not a much better film than it is.




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