CAPSULE: This is a bizarre surreal fantasy involving a man with psychic powers, a German Holocaust death camp, and people who are degraded to live and act like dogs. How does all that fit together? I vote for "not very well." Jeff Goldblum's performance is magnetic, but he has problems with the accent. Paul Schrader directs Noah Stollman's adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk's novel. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
ADAM RESURRECTED is a macabre fantasy that verges into surrealism and uses the Holocaust without being enlightening about what the experience was really like. It seems almost redundant to claim how unpleasant a particular film about the Holocaust is. But ADAM RESURRECTED seems to be unpleasant for no good purpose. The film is not enlightening about history, nor does it give us much insight into the unlikely title character. Here the Holocaust is just a literary device to explain how Adam had been degraded at one time in his life and to show the man that the experience made of him. And since he seems to have at times magical powers like telepathy or to bleed from chosen parts of his body voluntarily he is just to alien to give much of a feeling of realism. In a sense the film just takes the Holocaust in vain.
We see the story in a series of flashbacks. The dapper Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) is taken in handcuffs to a sort of Israeli mental asylum for Holocaust survivors. He seems out of place as being perfectly normal. But as soon as he arrives he goes right to a bottle of liquor that the attendants had hidden. There is no explanation as to how he knew it was there. We find out he has had a history of faking ailments here in ways that fooled even x-ray machines. In flashbacks we see that in the late 1920s and early 1930s Adam Stein was the toast of Berlin. As a circus and stage entertainer he could perform mystical feats that really defy explanation. In one incident becomes a test of wills with an audience member named Klein (Willem Dafoe). Goldblum wins that test, but loses in the long run. When the Nazis round up Jews, Stein ends up in a death camp ruled by now-Commandant Klein. Klein recognizes Stein and rather than killing him straight out, he makes Stein a house pet. Stein will live as long as he walks on all fours and imitates a dog. These memories come back to Stein--if they ever left--because at the asylum in Stein's present day the staff keep a boy who was raised as a dog.
Jeff Goldblum's performance is mesmerizing in almost all regards. In only one aspect is it bad and that is his inability to maintain a German accent. One sentence will have a thick accent and the next will sound downright American. He does appear to be doing Stein's stage magic for real and without camera tricks. Derek Jacobi plays the doctor who is given Stein's case at the asylum. But he is as ineffectual in the role as his character is in the story. Willem Dafoe plays the Commandant with a dash too little command. It may be just that Goldblum steals the attention playing another character with an excess of personality.
The film is based on Yoram Kaniuk's novel. In a novel the author has time to lull the reader into a mood to accept what is going on. In a film it may not work as well. Director Paul Schrader has made his share of hypnotic films, notably CAT PEOPLE, but the task of getting the audience to accept all this may have been beyond his powers.
This is a really off-the-wall nihilistic fantasy that may please a small segment of the audience and perhaps even become a cult film. But I suspect it will not even be marketed to the general run of filmgoer. I rate ADAM RESURRECTED a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0479341/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper