The Believer
Contradictions. Danny is a skinhead obsessed with studying the Torah

dir-scr Henry Bean
with Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Theresa Russell, Billy Zane, Glenn Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Reaser, Dean Strober, AD Miles, Judah Lazarus, Garret Dillahunt, Kris Eivers, Joel Garland
release UK 7.Dec.01; US 17.May.02
01/US 1h38

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E

the believer Based on a true story, writer Bean (Enemy of the State) makes his directoral debut with this startlingly personal drama about a yeshiva student turned neo-Nazi. It's blunt, controversial and never takes the easy road through its themes and situations. It's also profoundly moving. Danny (Gosling) is one of the most fiercely vocal of his group of skinhead thugs, and his articulate intelligence attracts the attention of the fascist movement's leaders (Zane and Russell), as well as a complex young woman (Phoenix). But Danny's past isn't so easy to abandon--his brutal anti-semitism is undercut by his deep desire to study and teach the torah!

This is a difficult, creepy film to watch, as its varied themes are juxtaposed so mind-bendingly that we are forced to think about the issues like never before. Danny's internal conflict brings out lucid, compelling discussions of both Nazi ideals and Jewish traditions, which obviously can't continue to cohabitate inside this young man's mind! Gosling's performance is raw and honest, laying the character bare before us to see the complexities of his internal struggle. The surrounding cast give equally clever and intelligent performances (it's great to see Zane shake off his Titanic villain persona for once at least). There's nothing remotely simplistic anywhere in this film--it continually challenges us to think. But this would be academic without the moving, personal story at the film's core: the voyage of a young man to find his real self. Stunning and confrontational, this is essential viewing.

Winner: Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2001.
strong adult themes and situations, language, violence cert 18tbc 13.Sep.01

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
the believer send your review to Shadows... Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall