Internal Despair

In The Believer, a Jewish student explores his inner Nazi

Crime and punishment: Billy Zane and Theresa Russell come to grips with hate and deception in the award-winning  film The Believer.
Crime and punishment: Billy Zane and Theresa Russell come to grips with hate and deception in the award-winning film The Believer.

The swaggering neo-Nazi skinhead played here to scary effect by Ryan Gosling takes equal delight in punching out a frightened Talmudic scholar and justifying fascism with his articulate verbal harangues. But something distinguishes him from Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper and Edward Norton in American History X. Gosling's Daniel Balint is secretly an Orthodox Jew (or was), and that gives writer-director Henry Bean ample opportunity to examine not only neo-Nazism but the nature of faith itself. Based on a 1965 New York Times article, this daring 2001 Sundance Jury Prize winner remains topical. It's a thoroughly provocative portrait of an identity crisis run amok and a good mind that's jumped the tracks.

 
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