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Believer, The

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 05/21/02 17:24:55

"If Jews were Catholics, this would be catechism"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Oh what’s a Jew to do. The world hates them. There’s a Nazi lurking behind every corner and at the very core of their religion is the sweet offering of absolutely nothing. Nothing without end. But the trade off is that you can walk around calling yourself “chosen” and justify a lot of really horrible things because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I hate Nazi’s just like anyone else. But this movie made me feel like I’d done something wrong. So this my apology. My confession. Which is what you’ll be going through if you are a conscientious, thinking person of non-Jewish origin born two generations after the Holocaust trying to understand the world after seeing this film.

I think someone should go tell the hardcore fundamentalist Jews that in spite of what God may or may not have said, it’s not “us vs. them”. Its just you, freaking out. Because I don’t want to kill Jews. But the Torah tells Jews that God will help them kill their enemies. Enemies being people who occupy the land their God says is theirs. You can’t argue with God or Guns. So fuck it. I give up, I’m becoming Taoist and moving to Japan where none of this really matters.

I’m not anti-Judaic but I do question the social repercussions of patriarchal monotheism. And I’m not Christian (which means that I’m Satan). So what does that leave me with when watching this film? Nothing. Nothing without end. The controversy of a Jew turned Nazi as all part of his whole process of understanding Judaism didn’t really hit me hard at all. It was more like watching an ant farm and thinking “why are those bloody ants so anxious to just fall in line”. And now here’s where the tricky cultural conundrum comes in in the wake of the Holocaust. Jews are the perpetual victim so there is a compelling reason to maintain a cultural unity and identity rather then just become people of the world. I really don’t get it and Judaism sounds like a very dangerous religion at its core. I am the piece of the puzzle that must be eliminated in order for Judaism to assert itself under its own banner of prophecy as God’s Chosen People Without Land Who Must Go To War to Take the Land That Belongs to Them. That idea freaks me out.

Fortunately, getting sympathy is not hard in this movie. White Supremacists hate everyone. So you can put any group who has been a victim or racism or oppression (which includes just about everyone by now) and still get it that Racism and Fascism are two lousy tastes that taste even worse together and get something out of this film. For me, it would be the Ex-Gay movement. How a queer joins an ex-gay movement and then not only denies his own sexuality but then tries to impose his new “converted” status on his brothers in Sin and bring them into the saving light of the Lord. There are dozens of religions that let you be gay, so why would someone pick one that told them they couldn’t be what they are? The world is full of head scratchers like that.

But that’s all religious nonsense that unfortunately is going to destroy the world.

If you are Jewish, you might find The Believer to be an alluring proposition to renew your ties to your heritage and do what one friend of mine did, move to Israel to work on a kibbutz because she didn’t really have a sense of herself as Jewish, not being religious, or even raised inside the Jewish traditions.

But then I had another Israeli friend who was more then a little upset he had to cut his hair and join the army. And once I overheard seemingly normal American suburbanites trying to convince their 7 year old daughter that when she grows up, joining the Israeli army will be fun, like summer camp. She insisted she wanted nothing to do with it. Imagine, telling a 7 year old American that when she grows up she’ll have to pick up a gun and join this thing called a “war” that she barely understands. Maybe it is her who’s consciousness will help evolve us all out of the current state of world affairs.

So you see, its complicated, because this film is all about exploring Judaism and ultimately identifying strongly with it, if its your heritage. I’m thoroughly American in my distrust of authority and disrespect for tradition so a movie about “bringing them into the fold” is not going to sit well with me anyway. And I’m not Jewish but I’m interested in the world so the film was like a little window but hardly the whole picture and it seemed geared more to open up discussion then to have a final answer, which I gather is a very Jewish thing to do.

And this movie? Ryan Gosling is electrifying, Summer Phoenix turns in a lackluster performance and over all it is just religious propaganda which makes me wonder why someone turns to the Torah at all for answers when there is an enormous world of wisdom out there. Oh yeah. That God thing. And the Holocaust. And Christianity, which I wouldn’t miss should it disappear. As long as people were still basically ethical and good. Which I think you can be without fear of punishment.

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