William Dafoe has joined the cast of Paul Schrader’s Adam Resurrected, yet another entry in the Holocaust Clown genre. Dafoe joins Jeff Goldblum in this adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk’s novel about a circus clown spared the Nazi gas chambers so he could entertain Jews being marched to their deaths. Goldblum plays the clown, while Dafoe is a Nazi whose life was once saved by him. After the Holocaust the clown is in an asylum populated by Holocaust survivors. Has Paul Schrader ever met a wacky sitcom premise he didn’t like?
The Holocaust Clown genre is a rich one, with entries like Jerry Lewis’ infamous The Day The Clown Cried, which is pretty much the same story as Adam Resurrected. The Day the Clown Cried is an unfinished film directed by Lewis where he plays a clown who entertains Jewish children to their deaths at Auschwitz – leave it to Jerry Lewis to go darker than Paul “Taxi Driver and Affliction” Schrader.
The most successful entry in the Holocaust Clown genre is, of course, Life Is Beautiful, which twists the concept by having Roberto Begnini not playing an actual clown in make-up but rather the kind of guy of whom you would say, “What a fucking clown.”
Adam Resurrected seems like a good outlet for Schrader’s obsessions with good and evil and morality, something he played with a bit in a Nazi setting in his terrible Exorcist prequel. The movie will also let him indulge his lesser-known love of clowning and all its conventions – he’s already written in a scene where a tiny car pulls up to the gates of Dachau and disgorges 30 Jews.