As I was leaving the theatre after last night’s screening of Adam Resurrected, the first thought that came to mind was: One Flew Over the
Even as I write this, I still don’t know what to make of the
film. It’s a challenging, elegant film;
one that trusts the audience to travel with the characters into the dark and
horrific crevices of the mind that are on full display.
While One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest used humor to ease
the tension of the story, Adam Resurrected contains very little humor. This is a result of differences between the
protagonists. Jack Nicholson’s R.P.
McMurphy is a sane man surrounded by growing insanity. Jeff Goldblum’s Adam Stein, on the other
hand, is a broken, mentally damaged man trying desperately to hold on to what
little sanity (if any) he has left while living inside a house of mentally
disturbed Holocaust survivors.
Director Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver and Raging
Bull, just to name a few) takes his time with this picture, letting the story
unfold at almost a snail’s pace. But
the subject matter and performances are so engrossing that your attention is
focused on the screen the entire running time.
Just like Schrader’s other anti-heroes of Travis Bickle and Jake La
Motta, Adam Stein is a man racked with guilt, trying to live in a world that
has moved on without him. What’s so
heartbreaking is the fact that Stein has the ability to grow, but his personal
demons have become so strong over the years that they paralyze him, making him
weaker day by day. What’s worse, he’s
too proud a man to admit his faults, which inevitably prove to be his downfall.
In order to truly understand Stein’s plight, a great actor
is needed. Enter Jeff Goldblum.
Jeff Goldblum’s entire career can be encompassed in three
pictures: Earth Girls Are Easy, The
Fly and Jurassic Park. His
performances in these films were great, but let’s be realistic here, they were
all one in the same. The jittery,
stuttering, socially inept oddball became his calling card. With that said, I’m one of his biggest fans,
and I knew that he had at least one great dramatic performance in him. But his portrayal of Adam Stein… it’s a
Pandora’s box of a performance. It is
heartbreaking, surprising, mysterious and frightening, usually all at the same
time. And it seemed effortless.
During the Holocaust, famous circus clown Adam Stein (a Jew
living in Germany) is spared the gas chamber so that he can be a Nazi general’s
personal assistant and dog.
Seriously. Commandant Klein (Willem
Dafoe) forces Adam to eat, sleep and bark like a dog during the entire rule of
the Nazi regime just for his own personal enjoyment. The reason Adam agrees to entertain Klein is so he can hopefully
save his wife and children from the gas chamber. He doesn’t, and subsequently loses his mind, while sometimes
reverting back to acting like a dog.
After the Holocaust, Adam lives a life of guilt, pain and
resentment. All the while, the spirit
of Klein haunts his dreams long after his tormentor has passed on.
Years pass, and Adam falls in and out of sanity. Until the day he discovers a new inmate at
the asylum (where he is a charismatic ring leader of sorts). Hidden away and mistreated by the guards, a
little boy spends his days alone and scared.
He was tortured by his parents and raised as a dog. Adam quickly realizes that in order to
salvage what little sanity he has left, he must save the fragile mind and body
of the little boy (whom he names David).
As I stated earlier, Adam Resurrected is a very difficult
film; one that will be etched in my memory for quite some time. The majority of characters have broken
bodies and souls, yet live as if nothing is the matter. And that is incredibly heartbreaking to
The way in which Adam Resurrected addresses mental illness
may be too much to bear for some viewers.
It’s shown with realism seen through an unflinching eye. I know the thought of Goldblum acting like a
dog borders on comedy, but watching his performance will haunt you to the
core. Both the cast and crew, in fact,
are working at the peak of their talents, effortlessly pulling you into the sad
world of these characters.
It goes without saying that there is absolutely no
entertainment value involved with watching this film. It takes the viewer to a time and place that some may have
experienced, while others only read about.
It is a horror story that peels away layers of our humanity and forces
us to confront the choices we’ve made in our lives and how they may impact us
in the future.
The heart of the film, however, is the love that kept Adam
alive throughout his horrendous ordeal.
It’s an incredibly powerful message when you think about it. Even in the face of insurmountable, almost
invincible evil, love can prevail. But
can it heal the wounds suffered throughout?
After all, we are an incredibly delicate species.
9 out of 10