Trapped in a Polish Ghetto with thousands of other Jews facing starvation or deportation to the death camps, Jacob is detained one evening at Gestapo headquarters. Eavesdropping, he overhears a radio report about a nearby ... more »Russian victory. At first he is silent, but circumstances compel him to pass on the good news of hope. In order to be believed, he feigns access to a hidden, strictly forbidden radio. Quickly he becomes a one-man bulwark against despair, a reluctant hero, but a tragic figure still-a man ultimately powerless to see or change the fate of his people. Jacob the Liar is a heartbreaking yet funny film that enlivens with the sheer power of its insight.« less
"Filmmakers with the chutzpah to tackle the holocaust always have to tread along some pretty slippery ground. How does one visualize the unimaginable horrors of such an apocalyptic human event without flinching, yet make it all palatable enough to keep the audience from fleeing the theatre? In addition, one must always avoid offending any of the actuals survivors who rightfully bridle at the first sign of softening or sugarcoating. Precious few film have managed to accomplish this feat and transform the experience into works of lasting art. In addition to "Schindler's List," of course, two other successful films come to mind: the 1965 Czech masterpiece, "The Shop on Main Street," and the beautiful 1983 Hungarian film, "The Revolt of Job." One of the reasons these three films succeed is because they all approach the subject from the viewpoint of a gentile outsider who is drawn into the momentous event and whose consequent moral dilemma becomes the audience's own. Through this approach, the audience is put not in the position of a helpless victim, doomed to unimaginable suffering, but of a participant whose actions could stand the chance of affecting a positive outcome on at least a small scale. The result is that each of these films avoids the overwhelming sense of depression and hopelessness that otherwise would accompany this heavy subject matter. "Jakob the Liar," like the recent "Life is Beautiful," plunges us directly into the center of the horror - the Warsaw ghetto in the months right before the Russian invasion of Poland. Robin Williams portrays Jakob, a former restauranteur who, through a series of flukes, manages to convince his fellow captives that he has a hidden radio which continually broadcasts news of the Russians' advance. This results in a temporary renewal of hope and courage as the inhabitants of the ghetto begin a plan of insurrection.Despite obviously noble intentions, "Jacob the Liar," itself a remake of a 1976 Polish film, seems far too artificial in its story and performances to ring true. Although Williams gives a relatively restrained account of himself and keeps the unctiousness of many of his recent film portrayals down to a minimum, he is still recognizable as Robin Williams, replete with the occasional stand-up comedian schtick, such as when he acts out all the voices in an ersatz radio program for the benefit of a little girl who has become his inadvertant ward. All throughout the movie, the writers provide moments of inappropriate mirth and slapstick that rob the subject of the seriousness of its purpose. And, although one sympathizes with the reason for doing so, is it really necessary to provide such an upbeat finale to a supposedly serious holocaust drama? This merely emphasizes the artificiality of the whole enterprise.One hesitates to be too harsh on a film of this nature. Certainly, its makers were driven far more by their love of the subject than the expectation of great boxoffice success - and "Jakob the Liar" is certainly no disgraceful failure for which its makers need be ashamed. It simply misses its mark both as a chronicle of the horrors of the holocaust and as a work of art. To see how that can be done, please check out "The Shop on Main Street," which still stands as quite simply one of the greatest films ever made!"
Understand Where This Is Coming From
Samuel G Carle | West Jefferson, Ohio United States | 07/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Don't watch this expecting Life Is Beautiful or Schindlers List - Don't watch it expecting to compare it to other Robin Williams Films. Granted, it's not as realistic and the original German version but understand where the film is coming from. Read Jurek Beckers novel for more insight. I'm assuming this films takes from the novel (which is set in the Lodz ghetto in Poland) - it's not a lavish detailed holocaust film but the message of hope that is gained from this is great. Watch the original German production and read the book - then watch this version with an open mind."
The key to your reaction will be your frame of reference
Hugh Brownstone | England | 08/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The week before seeing this film, my wife and I travelled to Krakow, Poland to see Auschwitz. We then visited Prague. I have to tell you, if your frame of reference is boomer generation American living in Europe and having visited the real thing -- rather than other movies -- the film is a revelation.We stumbled across this rental in a UK Blockbuster, rented it, and were stunned by it. It felt closer in atmosphere and nuance to where we'd just been than anything we've ever seen. It is a "small" movie: no grand gestures, no sweeping vistas or bright colors. No "pops" in the story line, no grand themes caricatured. This is not to say that we don't have our own copies of Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful, nor that these films suffer from these defects!But...if you haven't been to this part of the world, the one film of these three that would be most consistent with what you felt and intuited would probably be this one.I'm sorry the critics didn't like it. It is something out of the ordinary, and appears to have been a labor of love."
ONE OF THE BETTER MOVIES TO INTRODUCE KIDS TO HOLOCAUST
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 11/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have not read the book but I greatly enjoyed the movie. Good narrative, excellent cinematography, and some stunning background music. While the film may be held guilty for some cardboard characters (e.g., all Germans are mean looking men), Robin Williams was surely under-appreciated in his very concvincing cameo as Jakob, a pancake vendor, who pretends to have a radio and distribute good news to other Jews in the ghetto -- and I don't mean just the accent. The guy is brilliant. The theme is a cross between "Goodmorning Vietnam" meets "Life is beautiful" -- classic cultural interpretations of the forced lifestyle of the characters promote the effect of a rumour that a working radio exists in the barbed-wire ghetto, allowing a lowly pancake-vendor to raise to heroic proportions amidst his small group of associates and lie in the face of hope-dashing truth. At its heart, the story is about the irrefutable spirit of human life despite seemingly unsurmountable odds as Jakob deals with the consequences of either perpetuating his lie or coming out with the whole truth, weighing hope against despair. Swept up in his own joking accident and a few well-timed coincidences, endorsed by the ghetto residents, the ghetto organizes to resist their Nazi oppressors. As the fall of the Third Reich becomes more and more likely, the tangle of truth and falsity tightens around Jakob and each lie becomes more and more needed.An interesting angle to look at the Holocaust, it serves as one of the better movies to introduce younger audiences to that odious period of human history. Oh, and did I mention that the background score is marvellous?"
Linda Benske | Delafield, Wisconsin United States | 04/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie should be placed among the timeless World War Two classics such as Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful. It is truly one of Williams best performances since Goodwill Hunting. It acurately portrays the life of people during the Jewish Holocaust. Iwas touched deeply by this movie and moved by the great performance of Williams and the rest of the cast. Peter Kassovitz establishes himself as a great director with this movie. The book was great and the movie was even better!"