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.