Review of Jakob the Liar (1999)

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By Christine Iannicelli

In Nazi-occupied Poland during the Holocaust, a Jewish man named Jakob (Robin Williams) overhears a radio broadcast about the war.  He shares the news with a friend and pretty soon, the whole ghetto believes he owns a secret radio.  In an effort to inspire hope amongst the residents, Jakob goes along with the lie and reports imaginary bulletins of military efforts to rescue the Jews.  Some of the individuals he brings hope to include a suicidal barber, a former boxer in love, and a little girl who escaped from the concentration camp deportation train and is hiding out with Jakob.  But when the Gestapo gets wind of this rumor, they will stop at nothing to find this radio and its owner.

While the film didn’t fare well with critics and is constantly compared to the more popular Life is Beautiful, I enjoyed the film nonetheless.  I’m not usually a fan of Holocaust movies, but Jakob the Liar had just enough balance of tragedy and comedy to keep me engaged and emotionally invested in the characters.  The array of emotions that the Jews must have felt during this horrible time is evident in this film and portrayed beautifully by the actors. Despair and hope, sadness and laughter, anger and love: it’s all there for us to see.  Starring Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, Alan Arkin, and Armin Mueller-Stahl, Jakob the Liar is worth checking out.

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