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Invincible

Werner Herzog

After a ten-year absence, during which he kept himself busy with documentaries and other projects, Werner Herzog returns to dramatic features with Invincible, which is based on the true story of a naive Jewish strongman who is hired as an entertainer by a fanatically pro-Nazi hypnotist. Zishe Breitbart created a sensation in Berlin in the early 1930s as the strongest man of his timeomuch to the dismay of the burgeoning Nazis, as it was inconceivable to them that a Jew could be so strong. What was more, Zishe soon embrace his Judaism openly and became the hope of his community in Berlin.
Played by the Finnish strongman Jouko Ahola in Herzog’s film, Zishe comes into conflict with his employer Hanussen (Tim Roth) who is fast on his way to becoming a member of Hitler’s inner circle. As a clairvoyant, Hanussen forecasts the victory of Hitler to the rapture of his largely Nazi following. He even dreams of becoming Minister of the Occult in Hitler’s future cabinet. But the tables are turned on Hanussen when Zishe of fraudulent manipulation in his seances and it is revealed in court that he is in fact a Czech Jew.
Invincible is much more understated than Herzog’s most famous earlier films, particularly his legendary collaborations with the mad Klaus Kinski. The visionary director is in a more thoughtful mood here, as evidenced by the film’s frequent allusions to matters of religion, spirituality and the occult. Zishe’s story is explored from the perspective of a simple man who eventually tries to assume responsibility and leadership in an effort to help and protect those he loves. Something of the old Herzog still survives in Tim Roth’s suitably sinister performance as the megalomaniac hypnotist.
Germany-U.K., 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 135 mins.

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