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Jakob the Liar (1999)

Michael Jeter , Mathieu Kassovitz , Peter Kassovitz  |  PG-13 |  DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Jeter, Mathieu Kassovitz, Mark Margolis, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Nina Siemaszko
  • Directors: Peter Kassovitz
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 21, 2000
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003CWS3
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,778 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Jakob the Liar" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Making-Of Featurette

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful aside, milking the Holocaust for laughs is a dangerous game. Even the blackest, most therapeutic humor turns queasy in the shadow of such monstrous evil; it's like dancing on a mass grave. So Jakob the Liar's got a hard road to hoe--its eponymous schlemiel plays out his semi-farcical adventures in the mean streets of the Warsaw Ghetto circa 1944. The skies are always leaden over Jakob's hometown, reflecting the comic climate that pervades this mostly unfortunate adaptation of Jurek Becker's autobiographical book (first filmed in 1975).

Jakob Heym (Robin Williams in overbearingly earnest mode) gets tangled in a string of self-perpetuating lies about a hidden radio, supposedly broadcasting news that the victorious Red Army is nearing. His desperate attempts to convince a clutch of insistently idiosyncratic friends (clichés to a man: Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Michael Jeter, Alan Arkin) and obligatory Nazi bad guys that the radio doesn't exist are complicated by the fact that he's stashed a fugitive kid (a dead ringer--sorry!--for Anne Frank) in his attic--and by abundant evidence that lies are the best medicine for the ghetto's skyrocketing suicide rate. Copious unfunny misunderstandings and pratfalls eventuate in this Holocaust rendition of Fiddler on the Roof (you expect Williams to break into song: "If I were a funny man...."). Ultimately, Jakob the Liar loses its way for good in some very ugly violence and a rather nasty final twist: the film's ending might just be rubbing our noses in another feel-good lie. --Kathleen Murphy

Product Description

In Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, poor Jewish cafe owner Jakob Heym (Oscar(r)-winner RobinWilliams Best Supporting Actor, 1997, Good Will Hunting) accidentally overhears a forbidden radio news bulletin signaling Soviet military success against German forces. To combat the overwhelming depression and suicide that pervades the ghetto, Jakob invents fictitious news bulletins about Allied advances against the Nazis. These lies keep hope and humor alive among the ghetto inhabitants, spirits are lifted, hearts are refreshed, and optimism is reborn. The Germans learn of the mythical radio and begin a search for the resistance hero who dares operate it.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understand Where This Is Coming From July 3, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Don't watch this expecting Life Is Beautiful or Schindlers List - Don't watch it expecting to compare it to other Robin Williams Films. Granted, it's not as realistic and the original German version but understand where the film is coming from. Read Jurek Beckers novel for more insight. I'm assuming this films takes from the novel (which is set in the Lodz ghetto in Poland) - it's not a lavish detailed holocaust film but the message of hope that is gained from this is great. Watch the original German production and read the book - then watch this version with an open mind.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
The week before seeing this film, my wife and I travelled to Krakow, Poland to see Auschwitz. We then visited Prague. I have to tell you, if your frame of reference is boomer generation American living in Europe and having visited the real thing -- rather than other movies -- the film is a revelation.
We stumbled across this rental in a UK Blockbuster, rented it, and were stunned by it. It felt closer in atmosphere and nuance to where we'd just been than anything we've ever seen. It is a "small" movie: no grand gestures, no sweeping vistas or bright colors. No "pops" in the story line, no grand themes caricatured. This is not to say that we don't have our own copies of Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful, nor that these films suffer from these defects!
But...if you haven't been to this part of the world, the one film of these three that would be most consistent with what you felt and intuited would probably be this one.
I'm sorry the critics didn't like it. It is something out of the ordinary, and appears to have been a labor of love.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to define April 15, 2000
Format:DVD
This movie almost defies description. First, it is not a big movie, nor does it fit in the normal WWII genre. It doesn't contain the brutality of Schindler's List, but it deals with the same general subject. It is a somewhat dark movie but with amusing moments. It is certainly not your normal Robin William's vehicle, but he certainly plays the part of Jakob with fervor.
Ultimately, the movie ends like all movies of this type do, but it's hard to feel all bad about its outcome. This is a very good movie, but one that leaves a curiously empty feeling when all is said and done. One fact stands out above all: this movie deserves better than it got at the box office.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie! April 3, 2003
Format:DVD
This movie should be placed among the timeless World War Two classics such as Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful. It is truly one of Williams best performances since Goodwill Hunting. It acurately portrays the life of people during the Jewish Holocaust. Iwas touched deeply by this movie and moved by the great performance of Williams and the rest of the cast. Peter Kassovitz establishes himself as a great director with this movie. The book was great and the movie was even better!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE BETTER MOVIES TO INTRODUCE KIDS TO HOLOCAUST November 29, 2003
Format:DVD
I have not read the book but I greatly enjoyed the movie. Good narrative, excellent cinematography, and some stunning background music. While the film may be held guilty for some cardboard characters (e.g., all Germans are mean looking men), Robin Williams was surely under-appreciated in his very concvincing cameo as Jakob, a pancake vendor, who pretends to have a radio and distribute good news to other Jews in the ghetto -- and I don't mean just the accent. The guy is brilliant.
The theme is a cross between "Goodmorning Vietnam" meets "Life is beautiful" -- classic cultural interpretations of the forced lifestyle of the characters promote the effect of a rumour that a working radio exists in the barbed-wire ghetto, allowing a lowly pancake-vendor to raise to heroic proportions amidst his small group of associates and lie in the face of hope-dashing truth.
At its heart, the story is about the irrefutable spirit of human life despite seemingly unsurmountable odds as Jakob deals with the consequences of either perpetuating his lie or coming out with the whole truth, weighing hope against despair. Swept up in his own joking accident and a few well-timed coincidences, endorsed by the ghetto residents, the ghetto organizes to resist their Nazi oppressors.
As the fall of the Third Reich becomes more and more likely, the tangle of truth and falsity tightens around Jakob and each lie becomes more and more needed.
An interesting angle to look at the Holocaust, it serves as one of the better movies to introduce younger audiences to that odious period of human history. Oh, and did I mention that the background score is marvellous?
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars minor holocaust film October 13, 2000
Format:DVD
Filmmakers with the chutzpah to tackle the holocaust always have to tread along some pretty slippery ground. How does one visualize the unimaginable horrors of such an apocalyptic human event without flinching, yet make it all palatable enough to keep the audience from fleeing the theatre? In addition, one must always avoid offending any of the actuals survivors who rightfully bridle at the first sign of softening or sugarcoating. Precious few film have managed to accomplish this feat and transform the experience into works of lasting art. In addition to "Schindler's List," of course, two other successful films come to mind: the 1965 Czech masterpiece, "The Shop on Main Street," and the beautiful 1983 Hungarian film, "The Revolt of Job." One of the reasons these three films succeed is because they all approach the subject from the viewpoint of a gentile outsider who is drawn into the momentous event and whose consequent moral dilemma becomes the audience's own. Through this approach, the audience is put not in the position of a helpless victim, doomed to unimaginable suffering, but of a participant whose actions could stand the chance of affecting a positive outcome on at least a small scale. The result is that each of these films avoids the overwhelming sense of depression and hopelessness that otherwise would accompany this heavy subject matter.
"Jakob the Liar," like the recent "Life is Beautiful," plunges us directly into the center of the horror - the Warsaw ghetto in the months right before the Russian invasion of Poland. Robin Williams portrays Jakob, a former restauranteur who, through a series of flukes, manages to convince his fellow captives that he has a hidden radio which continually broadcasts news of the Russians' advance.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie, sad, but good!
Published 24 days ago by albdor4
4.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a Cliffhanger....
It left me a bit confused at the end...needed more. I love Robin Willams films, so I had to see it.
Published 5 months ago by Brenda
4.0 out of 5 stars Movie
This movie was inspiring and different. Just what I thought it would be.
Thank you for the chance to view it.
Published 10 months ago by Texas Animal Lovers
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear storyline.
I had a copy of this that was loaned and lost ( will think twice before another loan) and found it quite a interesting story. Read more
Published 11 months ago by John Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Jakob
What an emotional ride ...Williams is so believable as Jakob as is the rest of the cast there were times I forgot I was watching a movie I thought I was there it was so mesmerizing... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Doozie
5.0 out of 5 stars great
great movie. i found it to be very inspirational. i love all the actors in the movie. it was great.
Published 12 months ago by Max
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
As a teacher, I bought this movie to help my students understand what life in the ghetto was like and what restrictions they were subject to. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Annette Therrien
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply put, awesome
This was a wonderful movie, and for people who love to watch movies like this one, they will surely love it
Published 14 months ago by Lou
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for adults, slow moving for non adults
As a teacher I was looking for good movies on the Holocaust without the R rating. This one did not do as well as other Holocaust movies did. Read more
Published 15 months ago by KP
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical tragedy
This movie does a decent job of creating the hardship of the plight of German Jews under the Hitler regime, but leaves one wondering how the real Jakob actually got caught up in... Read more
Published 15 months ago by A. L. Valerio
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