Synopsis

The film is based on the true story of Zishe Breitbart, a Jewish blacksmith's son from Poland who becomes a sensation in Weimar, Berlin as a mythical strongman. His employer Hanussen dreams of establishing an all-powerful Ministry of the Occult in Hitler's government. Yet as Hitler's hold on power grows more sure, and Berlin erupts in a ferment of anti-Semitism, Zishe must decide how he will use his strength. Plagued by nightmares, he takes counsel from a local rabbi. He becomes convinced that he has been chosen by God to warn his people of the grave danger they face. —Sujit R. Varma

Director

Werner Herzog

Cast

Tim Roth
as Herschel Steinschneider / Erik Jan Hanussen
Jouko Ahola
as Zishe Breitbart
Udo Kier
as Count Helldorf
Anna Gourari
as Marta Farra
Max Raabe
as Master of Ceremonies
Gustav-Peter Wöhler
as Alfred Landwehr
Renate Krößner
as Mutter Breitbart

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Miryam 9 /10

The invincible Werner Herzog

I just saw this touching movie at the Stockholm Film Festival, and I have to say Herzog is still as poignant, charming and direct in his storytelling as ever. Not afraid to cast people who just have pure feelings, no plastic acting-by-the-book moves and more than one and a half expressions on their faces.

The frame of the story is a little jewish village in Poland in 1932, where a big family lives a poor but happy life. The eldest and the youngest sons, Zishe and Benjamin, mocked by some people as the thick and the thin, lead us through thick and thin of their lives. Based on a true story, the legend of the Invincible Zishe Breitbart, played bravely and somewhat charmingly naive by Jouko Ahola (the 1997 and 1999 strongest man), still is told among the jewish people. A man who accepted his physical strength as the gift of God, and thereby felt obliged to define his goal by that call. When he gets hired at a varieté in Berlin, he finds himself confronted with the Nazis, his strange employer Jan Hanussen, played by the impressive Tim Roth, who wants to sell him off as Siegfried, a blond, germanic hero who can even lift an elephant. It is obvious that Zishe has to decide whether he wants to deny his identity or rather become a Samson and fight for who he is. A touch of romance is added by the real life concert pianist Anna Gourari, who is almost over-acting, almost resembling a silent movie actress.

A very international, very special cast. Told in a simple, poetic and beautifully photographed way, Herzog manages to make you overlook the only downside of the whole movie: the bad language, german spiced english.

For people who care more about the persons than the action, this movie comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by Samiam3 5 /10

Herzog has done better

No director has more fascinating stories to tell than Werner Herzog. This one is about a Jewish blacksmith who finds his way from his village in Poland into a German propaganda show at a Berlin theatre which features a grim but locally beloved hypnotist, who claims he has seen into the future of Germany. The year is 1932, Hitler has yet to come to power.

For about fifty minutes, Herzog is able to keep the viewer in his/her seat. He stages a very eccentric show which at times allows for audience participation. During a hypnotism scene, Herzog has chosen the camera angle to be a P.O.V. of the volunteer. Tim Roth faces the camera, and as he starts to work his magic, it is us the viewers who are being hypnotized. But while the show goes on, the spectacle disappears. Invincible looses direction and starts becoming draggy quite quickly. Tim Roth's character is presented to us with so much flair and presentation that we are led to believe that the story is heading more in his direction, but it doesn't. Invincible might have worked better if the movie was about him. The last section of the film is clunky and overlong, and it feels like another movie. When looked at in its entirety, Invincible is almost a docu/drama. Some parts are very interesting but, it lacks important cinematic ingredients; the most important of which is structure.

Invincible could use a major reworking. It is clumsy in direction, unable to generate much emotion, and does not have much to say. This is NOT one of Herzog's more impressive works

Reviewed by TheVid N/A

Evocative visuals highlight Herzog's philosophic examination of premonitory Nazism.

The great Werner Herzog uses grandly designed set pieces to deliver a foreboding period piece about the nature of facism in pre-WW2 Berlin. The focus of the story revolves around the opposing philosophies of the sinister, renowned clairvoyant Hanussen, and one of his performers, a naive strongman, lured off the farm to make his fortune in the big city. Needless to say, both of these powerful characters provide the symbolic thrust of Herzog's visionary statement, and he presents them as extreme opposites. Roth really delivers as a refined cynic, while real-life strongman Ahola is a childlike brute, an amateur hero challenging the authority of a professional villain. While parts of the picture are heavy-handed and obvious, it has a refreshing, unsentimental neutrality about it's subject matter, and it's mise-en-scene pleasures are many. My favorite scene follows our hero on his way to Berlin: he's picked up by a couple of farmers, one of them unable to control wild outbursts of laughter as he listens to the naive strongman tell about his dreams. A worthy film in the Herzog repertoire and interesting enough even for non-enthusiasts.

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