17 January 2007

Invincible (Movie Review)

Saw a strange movie called "Invincible". I guess if I'm still thinking about the movie days later, it's got some power. This is the 2001 "Invincible" about real life Jewish strong man, Zishe Brietbart and his experiences in Berlin in the early 1930s, as the Nazis are rising to power. This is not to be confused with the 2006 Disney release about football also entitled "Invincible".

What I didn't like about the movie:
Werner Herzog, the director, decided to use a non-actor, in two of the three key leads. The part of Zishe, the strong man, is played by an actual strong man, Jouko Ahola (he has earned the title of "World's Strongest Man" repeatedly). The part of Marta, the pianist, is played by Anna Gourari, a concert pianist. Where this lends authenticity to the tasks they perform, it's very distracting to have bad acting. Zishe is played with one emotion throughout the movie: innocence. This is better than the overacting that Gourari does. In a critical scene she is playing the piano and looks like she might faint with each note.

Also the accents are all over the place. Although Zishe is supposed to be from Poland, he has a Finnish accent and his little brother, also from the same shtetl, has a British accent. If you can get past these weird incongruities, the movie does have some redeeming merit.

What I liked about the movie:
The third lead, Hanussen, the abusive showman who has the Nazis mesmerized, is played brilliantly by the actor, Tim Roth.

Also, I like myth and imagery and Herzog uses both.

The mythology of god choosing a small number of "unknown just" men in each generation to shoulder the burden of the injustice in the world and martyr themselves, is one I had not heard before.

The imagery that Herzog employs is very compelling. For example, in one dream sequence, the use of bright red crabs, crawling across a black beach until it is impossible to step anywhere because there are so many of them, is a compelling symbol of the upcoming Nazi overrun.

Plus, there were a lot of interesting juxtapositions raised in the movie. Personal identity versus group identity. Personal evil versus group evil. Physical domination versus mental domination. The ability to know something versus the ability to communicate it in a way that other people get it. Whether it's better to believe you have a divine mission or not. Lots to think about.

I give this movie 3 out of 4 jujubees and it makes me curious to see other Herzog films.

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