Jakob der Lugner

 (Frank Beyer, East Germany, 1974) 100 minutes


Director: Frank Beyer
Screenplay: Jurek Becker
Photography: Gunter Marczinkowsky
Editor: Rita Hiller
Music: Joachim Werzlau
Vlastimil Brodsky (Jakob)
Erwin Geschonneck (Kowalski)
Henry Hubchen (Mischa)
Blanche Kommerell (Rosa)
Manuela Simon (Lina)

Reviews and notes

The Story:
It is 1944, in a Polish ghetto. Jacob Heym has overheard a report: the liberating Red Army is advancing and is now not very far away. The circumstances under which Jacob has obtained this news, namely, from a report on a radio of the Gestapo, are, however, highly unlikely; Jacob must expect that no one will believe his information, which will no doubt psychologically save the lives of many. Thus, he can only spread the news by telling a lie, and so he claims to own a radio. In no time at all the news has circulated throughout the ghetto. Jacob finds himself the focus of attention, and he must constantly resort to making up new lies in order to maintain his credibility...

About the Film:
"The story of hunger and cruelty in a film doesn't have to be told by showing scenes of haggard faces and torture. The carefulness with which Jacob handles a piece of bread or the fear he shows to a good-humoured guard convey the harshness of the situation in much the same way" (Beyer). One of the most important accomplishments of this film can be seen here in its quiet mood, in its refrainment from using the images of horror and in its trust in the sensitiveness of the viewer. It almost appears as if the orderly routine of everyday life prevails in the ghetto, and yet behind this supposed banality a sense of being threatened and a fear of death is always present.

Because the director does not allow the fear to mount to an extreme on the surface but rather has it shifted inwardly, the question of what the story is all about is even more painfully experienced: it is all about defending human dignity to the death. "The story of Jacob the liar is full of poetry; comical elements are juxtaposed with tragedy, and it is permeated with the absurd, the real and the fabulous. It is a story of enigmatic humour and profound sadness, which spans the entire range of human experience..." (Beyer). In 1975 JACOB THE LIAR won the "Silver Bear" at the Berlin Film Festival, and it was nominated for an "Oscar" in 1977.
- Hans-Gunther Pflaum, Frank Beyer Retrospective, Goethe Institut, 1996.

Weblink: Review by Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

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