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The Believer

4.1 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews

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(Apr 22, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and one of the most acclaimed independent films of recent years, The Believer is a daring and courageous portrayal of a young Jewish man living an impossible contradiction as a neo-Nazi. Danny Balint (Ryan Gosling) is an intense young man whose fierce intelligence and inexhaustible curiosity once made him a star pupil at his local Yeshiva. Now, at age twenty-two, he focuses this intensity on altogether more sinister aims; as a rising star in local neo-fascist circles, Danny spends his days attacking synagogues and fomenting hate among a devoted band of followers. Yet while working tirelessly to realize the destruction of his own people, Danny finds himself inexplicably drawn back to Judaism. This terrible inconsistency in the heart of Danny's soul - the yearning to study Torah and to attack Jews - and the avoidance of easy psychological explanations, make The Believer one of the year's most complex and provocative films.

From the Contributor

The Believer was written and directed by Henry Bean, who has penned such successful psychological thrillers as Internal Affairs, Deep Cover, and Enemy of the State. Bean was recently honored with the Independent Film Project's prestigious Open Palm award for his work on the film. In addition, The Believer won the top prize at this year's Moscow International Film Festival, and was selected for competition in the Contemporary World Cinema Section of this year's Toronto Film Festival, as well as the Munich and Jerusalem Film Festivals. Ryan Gosling's electrifying performance as Danny has garnered the young actor rave reviews across the board. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, for example, described the actor's performance as "the revelation of the Sundance Film Festival." The Believer also stars Billy Zane (Titanic, The Phantom, Back to the Future,), Theresa Russell (Wild Things, Black Widow), and Summer Phoenix (Committed, S.L.C Punk, The Faculty ).

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Peter Meadows, Garret Dillahunt, Kris Eivers
  • Directors: Henry Bean
  • Writers: Henry Bean, Mark Jacobson
  • Producers: Adam Haight, Christopher Roberts, Daniel Diamond, Eric Sandys, Jay Firestone
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish, English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2003
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008AOSC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,864 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Believer" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I was prepared to absolutely hate this 2001 film. It's about Daniel, a Jewish young man who's an anti-Semite. He supposedly hates Jews so much that he becomes a leader of a right wing group. He's cruel and angry and incredibly articulate about it. In fact his arguments are so sophisticated and well done, that some Jewish groups have called it a "primer for anti-Semitism". When the film was released, the press was so bad that the film never was distributed widely, especially since it came out around the time of 9/11.
Based on an actual true story, the film is hard to watch. The star, Ryan Gosling, is such a good actor that I believed in his characterization entirely. His performance is nothing less than mesmerizing, as we see him go through conflicts and gradually change. We see flashbacks to his early years when he attended a Yeshiva and argued with the teacher. We also see short sequences enacting a holocaust story of a murdered child that he plays and replays in his mind. We see a romance with a young woman who is fascinated with Judaism. We see him and a gang of young toughs desecrating a synagogue. There are a lot of ugly words. And forbidden concepts. I found myself cringing throughout.
My heart was beating the whole time. My eyes were glued to the screen. I was disgusted and fascinated and horrified. But, as the film progressed though, I saw that it was not an anti-Semitic film at all. In fact, it said some wonderfully positive things about Judaism and made me proud to be a Jew. However, I'm aware that many people will only see the hate and I understand why this film creates fear. It's very powerful. And it will probably feed the flames of hatred for those who already think that way.
The DVD has some wonderful features.
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Format: DVD
"The Believer" features Ryan Gosling as a Jewish fascist and is based very loosely on a true story from the 1960s. The movie has been quite controversial, and it was shown originally on cable when the studio that made it decided not to release it in theaters, even though it won awards at Sundance. It was filmed in a raw, almost documentary manner, but it's not really gratuitous. Clearly, it's meant to provoke the viewer into thinking critically about issues of anti-semitism, religion, hatred, and so forth. On that level, it succeeds. "The Believer" is the type of movie that is likely to elicit a great deal of conversation if you watch it with your friends.
Some viewers may compare it to "American History X," but I think that "the Believer" is a much more complex and realistic portrait of aliented youth and hatred. The most frightening aspect of the movie is that it forces the viewer to understand (but not neccesarily sympathize with) the lead character. Ryan Gosling gives a raw, believable star-making performance. Obviously, many viewers may be (justifiably) offended by this movie, but if you're open then give "The Believer" a try. The DVD also features a wonderful episode of "Anatomy of a Scene" that shows the making of one of the best scenes in the movie.
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Format: DVD
Like many of you reading this review (I'm guessing), I first heard/read about "The Believer" after seeing Ryan Gosling's outstanding, Oscar-nominated (and should have been -winning) performance in "Half Nelson" - because in reading more about that film, people often referred to this one as containing a performance by Gosling that's every bit as stellar. Well, I'm here to say that those people were quite correct in that assessment.

And interestingly (to me anyway), I also found many parallels and echoes of "Half Nelson" in this film, which is notable because "The Believer" was made five years previous. In "Half Nelson", teacher Dan Dunne (Gosling) tells his young students about the concept of dialectics: "It's two things that push against each other in opposite directions."

And in "The Believer," we see that concept amazingly personified by Gosling in the character of Daniel Balint. After all, what could be more disjointedly dichotomous than a young Jewish skinhead who wears a t-shirt with a giant swastika on the front? Also, Balint has a thoughtful but tremendously conflicted mind that seems to find peace in mindless violence. A study of opposites, indeed...

I must admit that going in to this movie I was worried that such an extreme polarity in the lead role would make the character (or even the movie itself) a bit sensationalistic at best and cartoonish at worst. Thankfully, the script by writer/director Henry Bean and Gosling's thoughtful acting choices prevent them from being either.

In fact, as I later learned in the DVD commentary, this character is actually based on a true person and a real historical event.
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Format: VHS Tape
At first glance THE BELIEVER seems like the ultimate oxymoron: a Jewish neo-nazi. What makes this movie even more fascinating is that it is based on a true story.
The opening sequence in which the film's protaganist Danny Balint (Ryan Gosling) beats up a Jewish student he stalks from the subway is chilling and leaves the viewer appalled at Balint's ignorance and self-loathing and his apparent unwillingness to accept his creed.
In several flashback scenes a nerdy Danny is shown in his Torah class giving opinions on religion his teacher doesn't like- actually very intelligent and provocative observations- his teacher's inability to accept a different opinion to his only serves to add another dent in Danny's psyche (As a lapsed Catholic, I can understand this all too well).
THE BELIEVER is utterly compelling, Gosling gives a frighteningly plausible performance, the scene in which he gives a newspaper reporter a look at his passionate but undeniably flawed reasoning is one of many powerful moments. A couple of other sequences of the movie I found very interesting is a film clip where God is describedby a yeshiva as "The purest form of spirit. Nothingness without end"; and especially the scene where Danny rolls up a damaged Torah scroll while his friends are destroying a Jewish synagogue. The movie also co-stars Theresa Russell and the almost unrecognizable Billy Zane both in fine perfomances as nazi radicals. I'll go so far as to say this is better than AMERICAN HISTORY X, which I also gave 5 stars. This is a must-see, though not for all tastes.
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Is this DVD Closed Captioned?
i do want to know that too, i'm deaf so...
Feb 26, 2007 by SueMey |  See all 3 posts
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