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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I watched this movie when first came out and it is still disturbing and sad.Published 7 days ago by Wayne A Foti
excellent if over to top performance by Ryan Gosling. Good but needed nuance, obviously everyone hates Nazis & Jewish self/hatred could have been done w/ more subtle depth.Published 22 days ago by Arlene Sanchez Walsh
Too disturbing, not worth the watch. Movies like this has too much hate. Made me feel ashamed and uncomfortable to watch despite Ryan Gosling's acting or the writing in the movie. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent movie; great script; Gosling's talent is raw and ravishingPublished 1 month ago by josephine
Considering the many positive reviews, I was very disappointed. I felt it was very cartoonish. Some of the stereotypical behavior seemed better suited for a made for TV movie,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by John_DD
Very intense movie, based on true events. You can really feel the internal conflict within Daniel, to completely despise Judaism but not fully being able to commit to full blown... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer