Ponder this. If you (yes, you) were intending to make a, darkly comic, film based primarily around a Jew coping with his life, post-World War II, would Jeff Goldblum be your first choice for the leading role? No? Thought not. Which is a shame because in this critic's opinion he is one of the most under-rated and charismatic actors of his generation, and capable of much more than his career has dealt. Not convinced? Perhaps upon watching Jurassic Park and The Fly I wouldn't be either, however after watching his latest, Adam Resurrected, it may make you reconsider.
The film follows the story of Adam Stein, a charismatic patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in Israel, 1961. He reads minds and confounds his doctors, lead by Nathan Gross (Derek Jacobi). Before the war, in Berlin, Adam was an entertainer - cabaret impresario, circus owner, magician, musician - loved by audiences and Nazis alike until he finds himself in a concentration camp, confronted by a past audience participant, Commandant Klein (William Dafoe). Adam survives the camp by becoming the Commandant's "dog", forced to entertain him while his wife and daughter are sent off to die.
Goldblum is already embedded into the hearts and minds of film audiences everywhere for his roles in the aforementioned sci-fi classics - The Fly and Jurassic Park - however, this performance is easily his most moving and provocative to date as the deeply conflicted Adam. His ability to shift from a sophisticated, intelligent man - a trademark quirk for most of his performances - to a sad, twisted, troubled shell of a human being, still reeling from the scars, both hidden and unhidden, left by the horrific treatment gave unto him in the concentrate camp was a fascinating experience.
Though the narrative skipped back and forth between the present events of the story and the flashbacks within the concentration camp, it never once felt disjointed or irrelevant to the overall plot. Whether shifting to black and white for the flashback scenes was overly necessary when the period settings of 50s/60s Europe was so beautifully vivid is another matter entirely.
What was, perhaps, the most beautiful aspect of the film was observing Adam's relationship between his fellow inmates, faintly reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's master-class performance as Randle McMurphy in the brilliant One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. He was the 'leader among men' as a result of being the most individual, the most out-going, the only one able to really communicate with his care workers - even having a brief, albeit, bizarre intimate romance with the head nurse, (the gorgeous Ayelet Zurer).
The main vocal point for the film's soul lies within his relationship with the boy David whose mental problems reflect his own troubles while trapped in the concentration camp, conjuring up the painful memories to go along with it. This unfortunately proves to be the film's downfall as the boy (Tuder Rapiteanu) doesn't quite live up to the high quality set by the rest of the actors. I wouldn't normally punish a child actor on the merits of inexperience but due to being a centrepiece of the feature, I regret it's going to make me deduct the points from somewhere.
Paul Schrader performs a wonderful job, creating a breathtaking piece of period cinema, which shines more as a 50s/60s odyssey of the mind, as oppose to the lesser developed World War II/Holocaust sequences. Though the rest of the cast don't quite live up to Goldblum, this is without a doubt the most personal and emotional performance of his career. Forget Adam, this film is Jeff Goldblum Resurrected.
See This If You Liked...
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Schindler's List, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
Adam Resurrected was part of the 10th Belfast Film Festival and currently available only on import DVD.