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November 01, 2002 - Image 100

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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dee
act
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In his latest film, German director Werner Herzog
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to perish in a Holocaust," says
German filmmaker Werner
Herzog. "I see them as the
strongest and most confident people
in the world."
True to this vision, Herzog has titled
his latest film Invincible. It is currently
being screened in the Detroit area at
the Uptown Birmingham 8 in down-
town Birmingham.
At the film's center is Zishe Breitbart,
a shtetl-raised, pious blacksmith, who in
the early 1930s was acclaimed by
German and American audiences as "the
strongest man in the world."
It would be easy to perceive Zishe as
Herzog's personification of the Jewish
people, but the director, famous for
his creation of multi-layered characters
struggling against fate, urges caution.
"You can read into Breitbart whatev-
er you want, keeping in mind that the
strongest man in the world is also the
most vulnerable," Herzog observes .
during an hour-long interview.
Herzog, who just turned 60, is an
auteur of the old school who has writ-
ten, produced and directed all of his
50-plus films and documentaries.
Invincible is his first work focusing on
a Jewish character and theme, yet it is
propelled by decades of soul-searching.
"The relationship between Germans
and Jews has accompanied me all my
thinking life," he says. 'As a German
filmmaker and coming from a

German culture, I could not be a cow-
ard and bypass the subject.
"During the Hitler regime, some of
the bearers of German culture were
exiled or killed, while most sided with
the Nazi barbarism," Herzog says. "So
we young Germans of the post-war
generation were cultural orphans and
had to reach back to our 'grandfathers'
of the Weimar Republic for reconnec-
tion. For me, as a filmmaker, they were
such directors as Fritz Lang, G.W.
Pabst and F.W. Murnau, and the great
film historian Lotte Eisner, who was
my 'mother' and mentor."

Truth In Moviemaking

When Herzog first read the story of
Breitbart's life in a script by the strong-
man's great-nephew, Gary Bart, the
director saw its possibilities, but started
searching for an "intensified truth"
about the man.
In a nine-day writing marathon,
Herzog evolved Breitbart's character
into a man who sees himself as a lat-
ter-day Samson who must save his
unwilling people from the looming
Nazi danger.
In Herzog's own interpretation,
Breitbart is also part Moses, a power-
ful man of "heavy tongue" who needs
an Aaron — in this case a 9-year old
brother — to speak for him to the
people.
Herzog is notorious among his actors
for his obsessive veracity of detail, in
one famous instance forcing the crew
and cast of FitzcarmIdo to haul a large

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