Jakob the Liar - review
Jakob the Liar is a 1999 American tragicomedy film directed by Peter Kassovitz and starring Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Liev Schreiber, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, and Bob Balaban. The movie is set in 1944 in a ghetto in German-occupied Poland in the times of the Holocaust and is based on the book by Jurek Becker about World War II Jewish ghetto life. It is also a remake of the East German DEFA film Jakob der Lügner from 1975.
In the early 1944 Poland, a Polish-Jewish shopkeeper named Jakob is summoned to the German headquarters after being falsely accused of being out after curfew. While waiting for the commander, Jakob overhears a German radio broadcast speaking about Soviet offensives. Returned to the ghetto, Jakob shares his information with a friend, sparking rumors that there is a secret radio within the ghetto. After hestitating, Jakob decides to use the chance to spread hope throughout the ghetto by continuing to tell the optimistic, fantastic tales that he allegedly heard from "his secret radio" and his lies keep hope and humor alive among the isolated ghetto inhabitants. He, however, has a real secret in that he is hiding a young Jewish girl who escaped from an extermination camp deportation train.
The Gestapo learn of the mythical radio, however, and begin a search for the resistance hero who dares operate it. Jakob surrenders himself to the Germans as they demand the person with the radio give himself up or risk hostages being killed. During interrogation, Jakob tells the police commander that he had only listened to the radio inside his office. He is ordered to announce publicly that this was all a lie, so the ghetto's liquidation would then proceed in an orderly fashion. When presented to the public, Jakob refuses to tell the truth, but is shot before he can make his own speech.
In the film's ending, Jakob says, post-mortem, that all the ghetto's residents were then deported and were never seen again. As in the novel, there is an "alternate" fairy tale-style ending where the Soviet forces arrive following Jakob's death, just in time to save the Jews.