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Paul Schrader
Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi
Writing Credits:
Noah Stollman

In the aftermath of World War II, a former circus entertainer who was spared from the gas chamber becomes the ringleader at an asylum for Holocaust survivors.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 6/22/2021

• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Schrader
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Haifa International Film Festival Q&A
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


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Adam Resurrected [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2021)

Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum worked together twice under the Wes Anderson umbrella with 2004’s The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou and 2014’s Grand Budapest Hotel. For something a bit different, Goldblum and Dafoe united for 2008’s Adam Resurrected.

From noted director Paul Schrader, Adam Stein (Goldblum) and his family spent much of World War II in a concentration camp. There sadistic Commandant Klein (Dafoe) used him as his “dog” and torments him while Adam’s wife (Evgenia Dodina) and daughters apparently got sent to their death.

After the war’s end, Adam ends up in an Israeli mental institution for 15 years, where he gets by on his ability to ingratiate and entertain. Eventually he meets David (Tudor Rapiteanu), a young boy who acts like a dog, and the pair strike up an unusual connection based on their canine-like qualities.

Alrighty then! If nothing else, this focus on humans who behave like dogs gives Resurrected a decided twist compared to the usual Holocaust drama.

The question becomes whether or not Resurrected can overcome its inherent quirks and become a compelling drama in its own right. Given the plot overview, this seems like a dicey proposition.

Since Schrader came into Resurrected with years of experience behind the camera, I held out some hope he could ensure the film would overcome its potential pitfalls. Unfortunately, he can’t, so this turns into an inconsistent cinematic experience.

Much of the time, Resurrected feels like a mix of other movies packed into one. We get some Schindler’s List, some Life Is Beautiful, some One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and others here.

I mind the derivative feel we find here less than I find myself put off by the general silliness of the project. Perhaps Yoram Kaniuk’s source novel managed to convey this story in a less ludicrous manner, but Schrader can’t overcome the basic goofiness of the “people who act like animals” premise at the heart.

Granted, I recognize that this theme could evoke drama and angst, as we see the literal dehumanization of Adam while he attempts to survive. However, so much of the film concentrates on 1961 Adam among the other residents of the asylum, and these scenes lack much heft.

In those moments, Resurrected attempts to connect with its title, as we see how Adam’s connection with kindred spirit David brings him back from his prior detachment. Unfortunately, Schrader doesn’t earn the emotional impact he desires, mainly because the pre-1961 flashbacks appear too sporadically.

In a better-made version of this story, we’d spend probably two-thirds of Resurrected with the flashbacks and the other one-third in 1961. I’d estimate the situation works in reverse, though, so we spend far too much time with 1961 Adam and the wacky residents of the asylum.

These moments add up to less than the filmmakers apparently desire. Schrader could cut back on the 1961 segments substantially and lose nothing.

Indeed, Resurrected would gain from less time in 1961 because this would allow the movie to better explore Adam’s history. Instead, we get the Reader’s Digest take on Adam’s painful past and far too much exploration of 1961 Adam.

It doesn’t help that Goldblum tends to overact his way through the film. I recognize that Adam needs to be an extravagant figure in many ways, so I don’t fault some of Goldblum’s broadness, but he can’t find the character’s soul.

Instead, Goldblum makes Adam a flashy role but not one with much depth. We fail to connect with his pain and potential redemption because he comes across as such an overdone character.

Ultimately, the movie’s main flaw stems from its inability to overcome the quirkiness of its narrative twist. Resurrected fails to tap into the tragedy and drama, so it winds up as a self-consciously odd stab at a character tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Adam Resurrected appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an erratic and mostly lackluster presentation.

Sharpness turned into one of these inconsistent elements. At times, the movie provided positive delineation, but more than a few shots came across as surprisingly soft and flat.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent, but the image showed some minor artifacts.

Colors depended on the setting, and large sections of the film went black and white. The 1961 scenes opted for a pervasive teal and amber, whereas the early 1950s shots favored a heavy tan impression.

During the 1961 sequences, the tones tended to feel somewhat dull and bland. Since these dominated, the colors often lacked much oomph.

Blacks varied and looked best in the B&W segments, where they showed fairly positive depth. These tended to seem somewhat inky during other shots, though, and shadows could appear on the muddy side. This became a surprisingly iffy image for a movie from 2008.

Don’t expect much from the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack either, though mainly due to its lack of ambition. Though it occasionally showed some signs of life, the soundscape usually seemed restricted.

This meant light ambience and not much more, especially because the film came surprisingly light on score. Music showed positive stereo presence, though, and a few war-related seqiences managed a bit of activity. Nonetheless, this remained a subdued track most of the time.

Audio quality worked fine, as dialogue seemed natural and concise. Music appeared reasonably lush and full, though again, it didn’t manifest often.

Also as mentioned, effects lacked a lot of prominence, but when necessary, they showed acceptable kick, and they always came across with adequate accuracy. Though never special, this felt like an adequate soundtrack for this film.

Note that I did find one brief but notable flaw with the mix: at the 1:38:07 mark, the front left speaker emitted about one second of loud distortion. No other issues of this sort occurred, but this turned into a pretty prominent concern – and it startled the heck out of my dog!

A few extras fill out the disc, and we open with an audio commentary from director Paul Schrader. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the source novel's adaptation and path to the screen, story and characters, cast and performances, photography and editing, sets and locations, music, and related elements.

Schrader makes this a simply terrific commentary. He touches on a wide variety of informative topics and gives us a blunt, insightful appraisal of these domains. I may not much like Schrader's movie, but I like his commentary a lot.

A Behind the Scenes featurette spans 24 minutes, one second and brings notes from Schrader, screenwriter Noah Stollman, producer Ehud Bleiberg, writer Yoram Kaniuk, costume designer Inbal Shuki, and actors Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Hana Laszlo, and Derek Jacobi.

“Scenes” covers story/characters, cast and performances, photography, sets and costumes, and Schrader’s impact on the production.

Given how much Schrader tells us in his commentary, he leaves few stones unturned, so “Scenes” fails to find a lot of fresh material. Throw in a lot of praise for the production and this becomes a mediocre featurette.

Next comes a Q&A from the Haifa International Film Festival. It runs one hour, 11 minutes, 58 seconds and features a panel that includes Schrader, Bleiberg and Kaniuk.

The Q&A looks at the novel and its adaptation, the project’s path to the screen and Schrader’s involvement, sets and locations, and connected subjects.

Once again, the scope of Schrader’s commentary means that the Q&A often treads territory we already know. Still, the inclusion of Kaniuk allows for more discussion of the novel and its move to the cinematic realm, so it becomes fairly informative.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 32 seconds. Of most interest, the first shows what happened to Commandant Klein after the war. It probably should’ve made the final film.

As for the other three, they provide additional views of Adam in the asylum. Given how much time the movie already spends in that setting, they feel redundant – and Scenes Two and Three essentially offer the same sequence anyway.

In addition to the trailer for Resurrected, we get previews for Camino and Feed the Gods.

If nothing else, Adam Resurrected provides an unusual twist on a Holocaust drama. Unfortunately, the film fails to find anything impactful to do with the material, so it becomes an oddly uncompelling character piece. The Blu-ray brings mediocre picture and audio along with a nice selection of bonus materials. I respect the filmmakers’ attempts to do something different, but the end result doesn’t connect.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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