The story of Danny Balint, who transformed himself from Jewish religious student to a rising star in the Neo-Fascist political movement. In a surprising series of twists and turns, Danny exhibits all the passion of the converted as he browses militia-movement web sites, utters hate-filled but articulate discourses on Judaism and its teachings, and promotes its ultimate destruction. At a neo-fascist organizing meeting at the home of Lina Moebius 22-year-old Danny impresses people with his articulate violence, especially Lina's bright and complicated daughter, Carla, who is more interested in Danny's mind and passion then in her mother's politics. When his own suppressed identity seems likely to be revealed, he flees to an upstate training enclave, further galvanizing his desire to act out the vicious vilification subscribed to by him and his compatriots. But as events ensue and striking contradictions multiply, something in Danny's soul prompts a complex and incredible resolution.
There have been so many bad skinhead films, particularly made in the US, always one dimensional, cliche, thug fests. This is one of the better ones. Gosling plays his part well. He's intelligent, conflicted and articulate. It's not immediately obvious why he's so driven but that's where the film succeeds in pacing the story well. There's good, interesting dialogue and although Nazi based this could've played out just as well in two other conflicting ideologies. It's not got the power of Romper Stomper or Made In England but Goslings isn't far off those leads for charisma.
a very odd film even for a die-hard ryan gosling fan the storyline seems all over the place and i just can't possibly put myself in the characters shoes but it's based on a true story. Educational at best about racism and confliction of interest in religion
This is one that I had been meaning to get around to for some time. It deals with the thorny issue of the Jewish Nazi; whilst it sounds like an oxymoron it is similar to the working class Tory (or supporting Capitalism) etc. Further it is not too much of a stretch to understand how people can reject their religion especially when theology leaves so much unanswered and instead expects `blind faith' to be the mortar that holds all the other stuff together.
Ryan Gosling plays Danny Balint who is a skinhead in modern day America with a penchant for wearing a swastika on his t-shirt (it wasn't even acceptable in punk). He has rejected the Torah from an early stage and has done so by questioning what it asks a Jew to do, be and believe. His outbursts as a youth (seen in flashback) are as reasonable as a Roman Catholic questioning the belief in transubstantiation, but as with a Priest a Rabbi just aint having any of it - so he gets kicked out. Such treatment of a brilliant scholar only adds to the feeling of both alienation and anomie. Thus leaving a gap that needs to be fulfilled and so Nazi dogma fills the void. This technically makes him self hating.
Enough of the religious stuff; he joins a Neo-Nazi group headed up by Billy Zane as a be wigged Curtis Zampf. He not only wants to teach anti-Semitism but declares he wants to kill a Jew. Thus the scene is set for his journey into self discovery and a kind of rude awakening and some violence but not too much.
As a film it holds together fairly well but mostly because of the blistering diatribes from Gosling as Danny, who comes across as very believable. There is some love interest with some bedroom scenes seemingly shoe horned into the plot. There is some violence and lessons in how not to set explosives. There is also a bit of s and m and a lot of religious theorizing and middle class justification of racism.
This is not a bad film but it also is not one of those that changes your world view. It was made on such a small budget that they could not afford licences for the location filming, which will explain the varying levels of quality through out. Still director Henry Bean has made a thought provoking film that is hard to categorize, it is based on the true story of a member of the KKK who was outed as a Jew in the 1960's. All in all not a bad effort but the ending may be disappointing for some. If you like your films slightly quirky and are not afraid to deal with uncomfortable subjects then this may well be for you.
This is a character study (inspired by a real life case) of a young, violent, amazingly articulate neo-Nazi who wants to kill Jews, only to turn out to be Jewish himself.
The film is frustratingly, but honestly, without answers. There are only questions. It doesn't try to explain away his psychology (or psychosis), but only offers tantalizing hints. That drove some people crazy, and won the admiration of others. I fall into that second camp.
While the film never explained Daniel to me, I was riveted by his character - Ryan Gosling gives an amazing performance - and "felt" moments of understanding, rather than thinking them.
It's really a film about self-loathing, in a universe without hope - something anyone has experienced moments of.
There are some awkward moments, and a couple of the supporting performances aren't great, but overall this is the kind of challenging disturbing film I we saw more of.
I had seen the Believer at the cinema, and have recently seen it again in DVD. This movie had left a strong impression on me, and the feeling has been confirmed after watching it again. It is the story (inspired by the true story of a certain Daniel Burros) of a young Neo-Nazi Jew taken in the net of contradictions between his religion/roots and his antisemitic ideology, between the quest for meaning and self-hatred. One might have feared clichés and simplistic psychology, but none of these in that movie. The actor (whose performance some newspapers rightly compared to De Niro's in Taxi Driver) perfectly incarnates this young man undergoing a metaphysicial crisis -- a rebel rejecting his roots and religion, but prisioner, despite himself, of his own identity, which will constantly catch him up. Metaphysical questioning and very interesting reflexions on judaism makes this movie powerful, thought-provoking and excellent (careful though : several violent scenes). The non-manicheistic, quite existentialist end brings more questions than answers and illustrates the inner questioning and complex / yet coherent psychology of Daniel, the protagonist.
In short, an intense and powerful movie, that I strongly recommend. Let me quote the words of Mr Maurice Samuel (a Jewish author) which echo Daniel's own questioning and self-destructive behaviour :
". . . we Jews, the destroyers, will remain the destroyer forever. . . nothing that the Gentiles will do will meet our needs and demands".
When it was released, the Believer didn't find a film distributor in USA, and remained confidential there -- given the anti-Hollywood treatment of the subject, this is no surprise. Yet the film was released in various European countries and Israel as well. It won the Grand Jury Prize in Sundance Festival in 2001.