Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | Minnesota, USA | 01/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Judging from the many questions I get through my website's Hasidism FAQ, the book "The Chosen" is now a literary classic. It is being read in high school literature classes all over the world. Excerpts are a staple in multi-cultural textbooks. So nu -- why is this great movie STILL out of print? Is the movie industry really so unaware that there's a market out there? I certainly hope it's going be re-released on DVD sometime soon. Now granted, the book is always better than the movie, and this case is no exception. The opening scene at the baseball game, which is many pages long in the book (and is often the scene excerpted in textbooks) is not well-developed in the movie at all. That's too bad, because the ball game sets up the whole story by showing the deep animosity between the boys at the two schools. Also, the way that Mr. Malter (Reuven's father) is played in the movie gives the impression that he is a Reform Jew. In fact, that's what most viewers I've talked to assume him to be. He's not Reform in the book, however. Both he and his son Reuven are observant Jews, what would probably be called "Modern Orthodox" today. The Modern Orthodox do not wear traditional garb like Hasidim, but in terms of religious practices (dietary laws, the Sabbath, ethical behavior, etc.) the Orthodox and the Hasidim are not really all that far apart. This point is made in the book as the story progresses, but is not so clear in the movie, because people tend to focus on the clothes. In the book, the friction between Mr. Malter and Reb Saunders centers on issues of Talmud scholarship (textual critical vs. literalist readings of the text). The movie tends to focus more on the question of Zionism. I suppose the producers felt they had to "dumb down" the story to appeal to the general public, but a lot of the plot was lost in the process. Still, in spite of its faults, "The Chosen" is one of the better films about Hasidic Jews. It would be very helpful to be able to show the movie along with reading the book in class, especially in areas where there are no Jews and the teachers are trying to teach about this novel without ever having seen a Hasidic Jew. So come on, production folks -- let's wake up and re-issue this film! (P.S. A bit of trivia: Chaim Potok, author of "The Chosen," makes a cameo appearance as the Talmud teacher in this film.)"
One of the best films of all time... :)
Lindsay Harrison | USA | 04/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Granted, as previously stated, the book is always better, but I still think that this film does the book justice. :)
In 1940's Brooklyn, Reuven Malter, the son of a modern, Zionistic Jew, and Danny Saunders, the son of the very orthodox, Hasidic Rabbi Saunders meet in hostility on a baseball field. Even though they are both Jewish in such a turbulent and anti-Semitic time, they both hate each other and yet, they don't really know why. Then they begin to see, that maybe they had a lot more in common than they previously thought. As the film progresses, and the war rages on, Danny and Reuven are forced to fight their own battles and mature to adulthood.
The Chosen is a true eye-opener that teaches a lot about humility, and I remember watching this film when I was very small, only five or six years old, and then realizing that there were people in this world who had to endure pain and silence, then my troubles began to seem so tiny and microscopic. Through this film I learned that as Allan-Gabriel Boyd pointed out that , "The world needs holy men [and women too for that matter.]" this film has taught me so many lessons, and I am so glad that I learned them.
Robbie Benson, Rod Steiger, and the other actors did a fabulous job on this film and brought it to life magnificently. :)"
A Touching Film About The Hassidic Lifestyle
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 05/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1982 film, based on the novel by Chaim Potok, himself a Jew,
is a moving and detailed adaptation. Stars Robbie Benson and Rod Steiger. I saw this film on PBS channel 28. The Jewish soul of
this film shines through beautifully and sadly, effectively using Hassidic clothing and glimpses of the lifestyle, which is
oddly at variance with the rapidly modernizing New York City of the World War II Era. Robby Benson delivers a fine performance
as the American young man who befriends a Hassidic Jew and assimilates the Jewish lifestyle. Their friendship is rocky at best. His Jewish friend has been raised by a strict father who
upholds the traditonal and orthodox way of life (he's even got him engaged to another Jewish girl)ad shuns modern thinking. He is against the Zionist movement which sought to make Israel its own free state, but the Father in this film believes only God and his Messiah can deliver them. Never has a movie been more embracing of the Jewish faith and old traditions than this movie.
Hebrew music is authentically used. The overwhelming sadness and horror hits you when they feature clips from the slaughter of thousands of Jews in the Holocaust during Hitler's Nazi regime in Europe. With a sad, reflective mood and a long run of time, this film does seem to be straight from the equally long novel. But it's a great film and I recommend anyone who is a fan of Potok or Robby Benson the actor. The relationship between the boys and the difference between their fathers- one father is old-fashioned and fiery while the other is peaceful, but modern. It's a look at the difference between the two distinct worlds. In the end, the Jewish boy who always wanted to practice psychiatry, is allowed by a father who finally consents. It's a moving and poignant film. The acting and the script, lifted from the book, is quite good. Why did'nt this get any recognition in the Oscars of 1982 ? Or did it ? This film is before my time but it's superb and I feel it's Oscar worthy material. You will see what I mean."
Roz R | San Ramon, CA United States | 04/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw The Chosen on TV. I had seen it once before but watched it again. It is a fascinating and well-acted story of the friendship between two teen-aged boys, a Chasidic Jew, and an observant, but secular Jew. One reviewer complained that Maximilian Schell was too German to play a Jew. I found him very believable as the Zionist father of one of the boys. Rod Steiger as the Orthodox Rabbi was amazing. I didn't see the opening credits and couldn't guess that he was playing the part. Steiger usually chews the scenery, but here he is very restrained and moving as the father who sacrifices closeness with his son for the boy's own good. This is a film with many levels that bears watching over again. I have not read the book, and others here have said it is better. Movies are a different experience, and this one is very good."
Wonderful adaptation of the Chaim Potok novel.
Rudy Avila | 01/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie version of the famous novel about the friendship that develops between an Hasidic boy and an Orthodox Jewish boy remains faithful to the book in all important respects. The cast, headed by Rod Steiger and Maxmillian Schell, is excellent. Robby Benson and Barry Miller play the two boys, and are so wonderful in their roles that it's difficult to imagine anyone else doing them. Rod Steiger as Reb Saunders is perfect in every respect- right down to the Yiddish accent. His dance at the wedding of a couple in his congregation is one of the most expressive moments I've ever seen in motion pictures. The dignity, the extreme sorrow, and the great joy of being alive and human are all there. The only weakness in the film, if you can call it that, is the choice of Maximillian Schell to play Reuven's father, Professor Malter. He gives a fine performance, but there is no way anyone would believe he was a Jew. It's distracting, given that Professor Malter becomes a dedicated Zionist in the face of the decimation of the Jews in Europe. I am far from saying that Max is a Nazi, looks like one or talks like one- only that we can tell that he is German but it's hard to see any Jewishness in his performance at all. However, the movie is over-all excellent, if a bit talky, and belongs in the collection of any Jew or literary cognoscenti."