Anti-Semitism Marathon: The Believer (2001)

Written & Directed by Henry Bean

What an interesting and perfect addition to my paper/marathon! A film about a Jewish neo-Nazi by the name of Daniel (Ryan Gosling), The Believer is an interesting tale of Anti-Semetic sentiments. It is fueled by the strong performance of a young Gosling and a varied cast of supporting stars that includes Billy and Summer Phoenix, sister of Joaquin and River and wife of Casey Affleck. While following this young man, the audience is presented back to back to back scenes of powerful hate. We are left to wonder why this Jewish man, for we have seen the flashbacks to his childhood, might harbor so much hate against his own race. When things begin to get heavier and heavier we begin to see that there is a bit of respect for the faith hidden beneath the layers of hate. A clear explanation is never truly rendered as to why this man has began his hatred for his own people, but I think it was a lack of faith. The same scene with Daniel as a child is played over and over again, sitting in the classroom, questioning that story of Abraham and Issac. Once he sets out to destroy Jews, he finds himself face to face with true believers in the faith he was brought up in and he begins to question his motives.

It really is an interesting and intriguing thought provoking film. It doesn’t do it as big as American History X, nor is it as powerful I don’t think, but the message is still there, the senseless hatred of a race. Again, the ending fits the story. Gosling is good, but not as good as Norton was. Basically, The Believer is a string film, but everything it does, American History X does better. The main difference in why this film, however, will be much more intrumental in my paper, is its focus on Anti-Semitism as opposed to the black and white issues investigated in AHX.

Commentary on Anti-Semitism: This film was much more useful than was American History X due to its obvious connection to Judaism. Unlike AHX, The Believer deals directly with the hatred of Jews by Neo-Nazis in America. The lead character, a Jew himself, has a vendetta against Jews and there is little explanation. There are times when Daniel gives reasons for the Jew being the lowest of the races, as being a sickness, but he also invokes the Inglourious Basterds explanation of “you don’t know why you don’t like them, you just know you don’t like them.” In the end Daniel comes back to his faith and in fact offers himself up in sacrifice much like the story of Abraham and Issac that is so important to the philosophical question of the film.

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