~ Note: Contains Spoilers ~
If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion. - Noam Chomsky
For me, what makes Jakob the Liar such a worthwhile endeavour is not the impressive heft of the cast, the fastidious accuracy to historic detail or even the elegant pacing of the film: it's the central message of hope.
I know you're all about to roll your eyes at my (once again) unabashed admiration of Liev, but tough. Suck it up.
Once you realize that the Doctor has clued into Jakob's tale, you're set on watching each of the other characters to see when they too will get it. Perhaps that's why I was watching Liev so closely. Um, yeah, that's why. ;-
Nothing captured the feeling of possibility in this film more than the glint of hope that bathed Liev's eyes (see screen caps below) in almost every scene. I absolutely loved his excitement and wonder over the possibility of something new... a reason to go on. When Mr. Frankfurter brings over the trusseau pengnoir it is as though the deal is sealed. Mischa is then unstoppable. It was a truly beautiful metamorphosis.
I mean, let's face it, the audience saves its most visceral reactions for the character who's not in on the secret. And that's Mischa.
After reading many (many) articles about Liev, I've noticed that for him the Holocaust is load bearing subject. He has been called a "Talmudic Jew" by friends - which you can take in many different ways. To me, it means a Jew who enjoys a more applicable and less.. uh.. mystical path of study. When asked to speak about his Grandfather or any Holocaust Survivors in the family, his details are slim to none. Of course, without a tone of voice on the written page by which to gauge his reticence, we are left wondering. And the bottom line is it's none of our business.
But what does resonate is that Holocaust stories carry a deep responsibility for Liev. As a result, and in order to make a more profound contribution, he seeks roles which are not typical within the genre.
I really, really admire this in Liev.
We will never know how much of his own personal history Liev draws upon, but I have to feel that it's a factor. I'm not speaking to a Stanislavski system of "getting there," but instead a reason for taking it on in the first place. In any case I'm glad he did.
Liev aside, there were some brave choices in this film. The jaunty Keystone-Cops-meets-Fiddler-on-the-Roof tempo of the score that ran through Act II gave us as viewers permission to relax and even choke out a couple of giggles. This well earned levity, not unlike Daniel Craig's most deadpan "Again, I have no idea what you're talking about" in the movie Defiance is genius respite for the well invested audience.
I must admit to cringing at the little girl asking Jakob if she could listen to the radio. When Jakob hid behind the room divider, I felt a big multi-charactered soliloquay coming on. The thought of Robin bellowing out a "Goooooooooood Morning Krakow Ghetto.." had me frozen in fear. Thank goodness he dialed it down and we were spared that hepped-up-on-goofballs hysteria.
Looking back at my notes, I see that the apparant deus ex machina of the nazi officer in a position to be blackmailed by Jakob was a device that only served to make us hope for Jakob's life a few minutes more. I get it but I wish it had been dragged out a bit longer.
There are no happy endings in Holocaust movies. But perhaps an ending where Joseph was able to perpetuate his optimistic ruse, surrounded by those who had become family, was as good as it was going to get.
All in all I'd say it was a courageous and contributory film and I feel very enriched for having seen it. Some sweets pics of our boy to close tonight.