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Just An Ordinary Jew

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Germany | 89 minutes | 2005

German with English subtitles

Journalist Emanuel Goldfarb is an assimilated Jew who has become a well-respected essayist in modern Hamburg. When he receives an earnest request from a local schoolteacher to speak to a group of students about what it means to be Jewish in today’s Germany, it triggers a private emotional avalanche. Pacing in his apartment during a sleepless night, Goldfarb wrestles with his deep ambivalence about appearing as “Exhibit A” in a German classroom: a real, live Jew in the well-meaning, politically correct country that nearly wiped out his entire people. Just an Ordinary Jew is not a typical film in any way, but most startlingly because it is virtually a one-man show, a tour-de-force monologue running nearly 90 minutes. Ben Becker’s Goldfarb, arguing with himself into a microcassette recorder, is angry, caustic, wounded and humane — a brilliant portrait of a man who wants, ostensibly, to be nothing more than “just an ordinary Jew” but who cannot escape the extraordinary circumstances of history. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose Oscar-nominated Downfall dramatized the last days in Hitler’s bunker, once again chooses to work in tight quarters and with an even smaller cast, nonetheless creating a film with pent-up fury, wit and remarkable dynamic range. But the project owes its power to Swiss-born Charles Lewinsky’s fiercely articulate screenplay, which roams across the rocky terrain of modern German Jewish identity with the kind of restless intellectual energy of a rant: part Tony Kushner, part Spalding Gray, but with a very contemporary German accent.
Foreign Title Ein ganz gewöhnlicher Jude
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel
Countries of Production Germany
Year of Presentation 2005
Language(s) German with English subtitles
Premiere Status
Runtime 89 minutes
Principal Cast Ben Becker, Siegfried Kernen, Samuel Finzi
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