According to director Paul Schrader, Adam Resurrected is “a film about a man who once was a dog who meets a dog who once was a boy”. Neat pitch, Paul.
Pity this 2008 Holocaust tale, now getting a belated DVD premiere, never feels quite so whip-smart. Despite boasting one of the best Jeff Goldblum performances you’re ever likely to see, this is a fable that fumbles its high-minded, salutary ambitions.
Based on the controversial 1968 novel by Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk, it stars Goldblum as Adam Stein, a Jewish circus performer in 1930s Berlin who, when war breaks out, survives the concentration camps by (quite literally) becoming a pet for the bored Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe).
Adam’s forced to beg for scraps like a mutt; and when not yapping on all fours, he’s serenading others with his violin as they are marched to the gas chambers.
Think Schindler’s List meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, as Schrader gamely tries to steer the restless narrative between these (black-and-white) segments and scenes set over a decade later, when the guilt-stricken Adam lands in a psychiatric hospital for Holocaust survivors in the Negev desert.
Here he entertains his fellow inmates and ultimately finds his resurrection in the shape of the bond he builds with David (Tudor Rapiteanu), a feral child who believes he’s a dog.
Po-faced to a fault, Adam Resurrected lacks the wit or guile of, say, Schrader’s previous film as director, The Walker.
Still, your heart goes out to a glorious Goldblum – barking brilliant, you might say – whose brave, twitchily charismatic turn both elevates the film and deserves a better one.