Jakob the Liar | Chicago Reader

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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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