That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

The Believer

Thursday, December 6th, 2007 9:01 pm—Film

The Believer (USA 2001, Drama), Writers: Henry Bean, Mark Jacobson; Director: Henry Bean

I rented The Believer not long ago. Ryan Gosling. Wow. He just keeps impressing me more and more. Although I’m wondering what TS, who recommended The Believer, liked so much about the film as a whole. I thought it had a few very strong points, but overall, I found it to be lacking.

Gosling stars as Danny Balint, a conflicted young man who is both Jewish and a neo-Nazi. Hence the conflict. The movie is based on the true story of Daniel Burros, a KKK member in the 1960s who killed himself when he was revealed by a New York Times reporter to be Jewish.

What I enjoyed most about the film were Gosling’s performance and some aspects of the writing. Gosling is outstanding. He portrays what is essentially a gross magnification of people’s tendency to hate in others what they hate in themselves, while still giving Danny real soul and substance. As for the script, I appreciated the way it delves into Danny’s unique perspective on Judaism. Although that often made me feel more like I was digesting a sermon than enjoying good dialogue, Danny’s background and insight brings particular resonance to his arguments about why he hates Jewish people. Knowledge is power, and here, he uses it for the greater harm.

The problem I had with The Believer is that, while the filmmakers, and of course Gosling, do a good job showing how conflicted Danny is as a young adult, I couldn’t see how he went from being a devout student of Judaism to a violent, hateful neo-Nazi. It didn’t help that the actor playing Danny as a youth doesn’t look or act anything like Gosling.

Also, the black and white fantasy sequences are a little reminiscent of made-for-TV movies. Every time the music kicked in for one of those sequences, I had to fight the urge to hit fast-forward. It just didn’t work for me.

I don’t mean to dismiss The Believer entirely, but I wouldn’t recommend watching it unless you want to study/enjoy Gosling’s performance, or try to wrap your head around some of the points Danny makes—if for no other reason than to examine how people can turn on one another so drastically and use their inside knowledge to do wrong.

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