Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA/United Kingdom/Germany/Ireland, 2001. Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, Tatfilm, Little Bird, Jan Bart Productions, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Bayerischer Rundfunk, ARTE, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Filmforderungsanstalt, Beaftragter der Bundesregierung fur Angelegenheinten der Kultur und der Medien, FilmFour, Fine Line Features. Screenplay by Werner Herzog. Cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger. Produced by Gary Bart, Werner Herzog. Music by Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Ulrich Bergfelder. Costume Design by Jany Temime. Film Editing by Joe Bini.
A Jewish blacksmith with muscles the size of boulders performs a feat of strength in a circus act one night to clear a debt to a local tavern in 1930s Poland. Spotted by a talent agent, he is brought to Berlin where he is given a job performing strongman feats at Hanussen’s famous Theatre of the Occult. At first wearing a blond wig and given the more “Aryan” name of Siegfried, our hero eventually realizes that he is not ashamed of his heritage and proclaims it onstage for the world to see. Naturally, the Nazi patrons are incensed and turn their hatred towards Hanussen (Tim Roth) himself, while Jewish patrons line up in droves to see their newly proclaimed Samson. Werner Herzog’s latest film has an interesting fact-based story to tell, and some memorably powerful images, not to mention excellent performances from Roth and newcomer Jouko Ahola (a Finnish champion bodybuilder who has never acted before). The pacing lags, however, and the running time stays way beyond its welcome: it’s a two and a half hour film that could easily have been told in eighty minutes. Boring beyond belief, and the characters are too flat.