Henry Bean’s “The Believer” (2001) left me at a loss for words. The film is a bit of a mystery and not the good kind.
Ryan Gosling stars as Danny Balint, a modern day Nazi who enjoys beating up Jews, Blacks, whatever Ethnic group member he happens to come across. While he enjoys that hobby, he gets bored fighting alone, so he joins up with a group of Fascists and successfully talks them into preaching his message of hate and genocide.
But Danny is more than he seems; he is Jewish, and not just by heritage. He knows the language, the practices, the traditions, everything. He passes that off as ‘know-your-enemy’ thinking to his buddies, but he still follows the rules when in the presence of religious artifacts.
And that’s where I run into the conundrum; Danny is filled with hate for ‘his’ people, but he also ardently believes in their traditions and being a good Jew in line with those traditions. I’m guessing that the writer, Bean again, was trying to show that racism can be complex, but to me, Danny just doesn’t come across as a real person.
A Jewish Nazi is an intriguing premise, and Gosling gives everything he has to the performance (make no mistake, it’s an award-worthy one), but other than an extreme contrarian streak in Danny, there doesn’t seem to be any foundation for his wishes of genocide. At one point in the film, he preaches that “we” hate the Jews simply because we hate them, and while the speech makes the point, that isn’t enough justification for the hatred in Danny.
I don’t buy it, and therefore I can’t get behind the movie. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
“The Believer” (2001)
Written and directed by Henry Bean
Starring: Ryan Gosling (Danny Balint)