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Jakob the Liar (1999)

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During World War II, an ordinary inhabitant of a ghetto fakes news about Allied offensives to inspire hope for other victims of the Nazi regime.

Director:

Peter Kassovitz

Writers:

Jurek Becker (novel), Peter Kassovitz (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robin Williams ... Jakob
Hannah Taylor Gordon ... Lina
Éva Igó Éva Igó ... Lina's Mother (as Eva Igo)
István Bálint István Bálint ... Lina's Father (as Istvan Balint)
Justus von Dohnányi Justus von Dohnányi ... Preuss
Kathleen Gati ... Hooker
Bob Balaban ... Kowalsky
Alan Arkin ... Frankfurter
Michael Jeter ... Avron
Mark Margolis ... Fajngold
János Gosztonyi János Gosztonyi ... Samuel (as Janos Gosztonyi)
Liev Schreiber ... Mischa
Armin Mueller-Stahl ... Kirschbaum
Ádám Rajhona Ádám Rajhona ... The Whistler (as Adam Rajhona)
Antal Leisen Antal Leisen ... Peg-Leg
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Storyline

In 1944 Poland, a Jewish shop keeper named Jakob is summoned to ghetto headquarters after being caught out near curfew. While waiting for the German Kommondant, Jakob overhears a German radio broadcast about Russian troop movements. Returned to the ghetto, the shopkeeper shares his information with a friend and then rumors fly that there is a secret radio within the ghetto. Jakob uses the chance to spread hope throughout the ghetto by continuing to tell favorable tales of information from "his secret radio." Jakob, however, has a real secret in that he is hiding a young Jewish girl who escaped from a camp transport train. A rather uplifting and slightly humorous film about World War II Jewish Ghetto life. Written by Anthony Hughes <husnock31@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He will make you believe. See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Hungary | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 September 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Una señal de esperanza See more »

Filming Locations:

Poland See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$45,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,056,647, 26 September 1999, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$4,956,401, 31 October 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | SDDS

Color:

Color (Rankcolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film takes place in 1944. See more »

Goofs

The train locomotive in the lower left-hand corner of the DVD cover artwork is correct for southern California when the movie was released in 1999, but it's totally wrong for the movie's setting in 1944 Poland. Its cab profile was used on various diesel-electric models built by General Motors for the North American market from the early 1960s onwards, it has 1990s-style dual low-mounted safety lights, and its red-and-gray paint scheme bears an uncanny resemblance to that used by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the western United States in the late 20th century. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jakob Heym: Hitler goes to a fortune-teller and asks, "When will I die?" And the fortune-teller replies, "On a Jewish holiday." Hitler then asks, "How do you know that?" And she replies, "Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday."
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to the city and peoples of Piotrków, Poland, the city and peoples of Lódz, Poland and the city and peoples of Budapest, Hungary. See more »

Connections

Featured in Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Rakoczy March
Written by Hector Berlioz
Performed by Cleveland Pops Orchestra
Conducted by Louis Lane
Courtesy of Sony Classical
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dark comedy, with an appropriately surreal ending
14 October 1999 | by TransitSee all my reviews

What I like about Jakob's tale is that Jakob is no natural hero who sets out to keep hope alive. Far from it. He is an ordinary man, and as terrified of the Nazis as any of his neighbors in the ghetto. He blunders his way into his unlikely role as a keeper of hope, and once there, cannot see from moment to moment how he can maintain it, wishes at times he could be rid of the burden, and yet somehow, manages to continue to inspire others who are so desperate for hope, they don't even try to disbelieve. In short, don't be fooled by the title: Jakob is just this guy; plotwise, he is only a hub around which a large wheel turns.

There were parts that didn't work for me, especially pieces where narration would have worked better than a character monologue (Jakob is a narrator as well as a character, so why does he talk to himself instead of us so much?) But on the whole, it was a good story, well performed by those involved.

The ending, which I shall refrain from describing for the benefit of any who have not seen it, is absolutely fitting. It is surreal, which may bother some, but leaves the door open to so many interpretations that you will wonder whether to take it as the true end, or whether it was Jakob's final lie. And fittingly, the decision is left in the mind of the viewer.


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