Invincible [2001/I]

Only Werner Herzog could turn the factual story of Invincible into a timeless allegorical fable. This is unmistakably a Herzog film--the director's first narrative feature in a decade--exposing evil in the stage show hosted by the cynical occultist Hanussen (Tim Roth), whose Berlin nightclub entertains Nazi officers on the eve of Hitler's rise to power. This arena of pre-Holocaust amusement is ill-prepared for the disruptive influence of Zishe (Jouko Ahola), a burly Polish blacksmith recruited to play a strongman in Hanussen's act. When Zishe announces his Jewishness to the crowd, thus attracting a Jewish audience to Hanussen's Aryan enclave, his simple act of bravery represents a pivotal affront to Nazi pride, with entirely unexpected results. Finnish body-builder Ahola is Herzog's daring experiment--a nonactor (and it shows) whose likable nature is starkly contrasted with Roth's manipulative malevolence. As Zishe so innocently demonstrates, resistance may be hazardous, but it's not always futile. --Jeff Shannon

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