Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Believer (2001) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
There are certain things you don't want to know about, such as neo-Nazi fascist hatred. Henry Bean's film, based on the true story of a Jewish boy who became an anti-Semitic urban terrorist, is anything but exploitative. The intelligence of the writing and the intensity of Ryan Gosling's performance takes it out of the shock horror budget bin. This is a serious study of a disturbing phenomenon.
At first, Daniel (Gosling) assumes the persona of a skinhead yobo, who hates Jews. The thrill he feels when beating up a Hebrew student is ugly enough, but inside the mind of this teenager who says, "The modern world is a Jewish disease", contradictory emotions are at war.
He acts like a racist, behaves like a sadist and thinks like a radical. He's not stupid. He was expelled from school for questioning the meaning of God. He stood at the centre of class with his arms in the air, shouting, "Let Him crush me like the conceited bully that He is."
He becomes involved in underground movements and joins training camps in the country where he learns how to kill. In the city, he is taken up by a sophisticated right wing group, lead by a charismatic intellectual (Billy Zane), who are intrigued by this young man with fascist tattoos and ideas that are not regurgitated slogans. Daniel's anger is personal. He tries to pin it onto other people's philosophy, but it doesn't stick. He demands action - "Kill your enemy" - but secretly respects the Tora.
Bean is searching for an understanding. In a film like American History X, the issues are clear. They aren't here, because Daniel has not reached that age when the language of hate burns in the throat. He is articulate and misguided and determined. What he doesn't know is why and what he cannot find is sympathy for Holocaust survivors who did not fight back.
The film is honest and powerful and difficult to watch. It shines a light on the mind of a terrorist, even though Daniel's case is special.Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2001