The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Michele Arbir.
In 1924 my great-grandmother and my grandfather, age three at the time, arrived in New York at Ellis Island. Their names are recorded in the book coming over from Germany. My great grandfather came over the year before looking to escape Germany because of what he was seeing there. He secured a job as a painter and sent for his family. They were lucky enough to escape and see how Germany was going in the wrong direction as a country. Not all were so fortunate, as was the case for Adam Stein. Adam Resurrected is adapted from Yoram Kaniuk’s novel of the same name published in Israel in 1968 (the book’s original name literally means “Adam, son of a dog”). In the film, Adam is played by Jeff Goldblum, alongside Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, and Ayelet Zurer. For years I’ve tried to stay away from any type of WWII books and films. How people were treated by the Nazis sickens me. Somehow these types still fall into my lap and Adam Resurrected will play with all of your emotions.
The film, part of which is told through a series of flashbacks, follows the story of Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), a charismatic patient of a fictitious psychiatric asylum for Holocaust survivors in Israel, in 1961. Adam was a comedian in Berlin prior to the Second World War, during which he was sent to a concentration camp. Adam manages to survive the war only because his pre-war act was recalled by an SS officer (Willem Dafoe), who takes Adam as his “pet,” insisting he acts like a dog (as he did during one of his sketches). His humiliation was his ticket to survival, as he was even forced to play the fiddle as his wife and daughter were led to the gas chambers. While he is outwardly charming and witty, Adam is tormented by survivor’s guilt and delusions that he is a dog. During his time at the institution, he carries on an affair with a nurse (Ayelet Zurer), becomes a quasi-mentor to a younger patient with the same delusion of dog-hood, and has a discovery of psychic ability when he experiences a religious ecstasy as a possible messiah to the other patients.
Did you get all that? Adam Resurrected is packed and just from the synopsis you go through the emotions of sadness, anger, hatred, and sorrow. When released in 2008 it received mixed reviews from critics. When watching the first thing that came to mind was, surely Goldblum was nominated for an Oscar for the role, right? Sadly he was not. Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2008, “In a less competitive year, Jeff Goldblum would have had a shot at an Oscar nod for his performance in Adam Resurrected, in which he plays Adam Stein, a mental patient irrevocably haunted by his Holocaust survival. This original drama is less glum than it might sound, thanks to Goldblum’s spirited, go-for-broke portrayal and director Paul Schrader’s distinctive translation of Noah Stollman’s script.” I don’t care what any other critic said, Mr. Goldstein is on point! Some would say the lead role was written with Mr. Goldblum in mind for the lead role because he fit into the role so perfectly. Any other year Goldblum would have been nominated for best actor but the other movies that year were so good that Goldblum was up against Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Johnny Depp.
Adam Resurrected has no physical violence that is performed on screen, that said director Paul Schrader (First Reformed) never allows us to get comfortable. What we see is insanity, cruelty and living life even though the thrill is gone. It’s a powerful story that is very tough for viewers to take in. Yet it is one of Jeff Goldblum’s best performances, which can also be said for the outstanding supporting turn by Willem Dafoe. He always plays a great villain and his performance makes you hate his character so much you want to jump through the screen and beat him to death. The back and forth in time does make the film feel a little all over the map. The film’s subject matter will leave a deep imprint on the mind. It is the sardonic humor that gave the survivors the strength to carry on living. It shows how Holocaust survivors not just survived but learned how to cope and remain in the living. The scene where the survivors shout their numbers is comparable to shouting to the Holocaust that they survived in spite of everything.
This is the second most powerful movie I have seen this year, having seen Blue Bayou. The story and acting will grab you and not let you go, this film will stay with you. All students of philosophy and psychology should watch this film and examine its contents, which are a deep and dark look into the human soul. Jeff Goldblum is phenomenal, so much so I think they should go back and give him an Oscar for this role. Adam Resurrected makes me so grateful my father’s parents left Germany when they did. The drama is haunting as are the heart-breaking views of the Holocaust. In my book, this movie should have had a higher rating.
Adam Resurrected returns to Blu-Ray after previously being available through Image Entertainment with a digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer derived from what is almost assuredly a very solid older master. This transfer maintains the natural film grain of the source without any hints of digital tinkering. The grain presents as organic rather than overwhelmingly noisy, which allows for greater depth to the image. Overall clarity and detail is very strong, and skin tones are natural and consistent with subtle facial features easily noticeable in closeup. Colors are well saturated and suit the stylized look that was intended by Schrader. Contrast in the black-and-white scenes are handled well with only slightly overblown highlights to add to the surreal reality of the film. Black levels are deep and hold up well with crush not serving as a noticeable issue. Instances of print damage do not serve as a notable issue. This new presentation from MVD Entertainment serves the film really well.
This new Blu-Ray comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and a LPCM 2.0 mix that features all of the sounds of the film quite well. This is a film that utilizes its score quite effectively in a way that makes the film really come alive. It is presented with a great clarity and a pleasing fidelity as it comes through the room. The dialogue holds up wonderfully, coming through clearly without being stepped on by the music or sound effects. The environmental effects are delineated nicely within the few more crowded sequences. Subtle elements such as the clanging of silverware or clacking of heels holds up well in the mix. The surround speakers are rarely given a full workout, but this track does showcase some nice support in the low end in particular instances. The track avoids most instances of age related wear and tear or distortion. This is a track that represents the film in an impressive manner. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.
- Audio Commentary: Director Paul Schrader delivers a very informative commentary track that should be of particular interest to film students as he really digs into the technical aspects of bringing this story to life.
- Behind The Scenes Featurette: A 24-minute piece that offers some decent insight into the production with interviews, on-set footage and clips from the film. Goldblum does not lean into some of his expected eccentricities as he refers to his determination to do the material justice, and Schrader speaks at length about the process of bringing this story to the screen and his desire to give it a different aesthetic from other Holocaust dramas. This is worth a look if you enjoy the film.
- HAIFA International Film Festival Q&A: A fantastic 1-hour-and-12-minute panel with Paul Schrader, writer Yoram Kaniuk, and producer Ehud Bleiberg in which the discuss the difficulties of bringing this book to life, some of the various highs and lows of the production, what makes this material unique, the performances and much more. It would be nice if more discs included panels from films that played at film festivals as you gain some valuable insight. The only unfortunate aspect of this piece is the lack of optional subtitles as sometimes the sound quality and accents make certain words hard to understand.
- Deleted Scenes: Ten minutes of unused material is provided here including a scene of Adam hiding Commandant Klein in his attic after war.
- Trailers: The nearly two-minute trailer for Adam Resurrected is provided here. There are also trailers provided for Camino and Feed The Gods.
Adam Resurrected can be a tough watch, but as brought to life by the great Paul Schrader the film avoids many of your typical Holocaust tropes. The real standout aspect of the film is the impeccable performances from Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe. MVD Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray that features a great A/V presentation and some interesting legacy special features. This is one film that has not been on the radar for many previously, but it is worth a rediscovery for those who are prepared to tackle the material. Recommended
Adam Resurrected is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: MVD Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.