Easily the most traditional film of Werner Herzog’s career, Invincible is drunk on irony and Jewish folklore but lacks the existential wallop of the director’s masterful man-versus-earth collisions. Tim Roth stars as real-life clairvoyant scoundrel Erik Jan Hanussen, who runs a German freakshow that features Jew-in-hiding strongman Zishe Breitbart (Finland’s Jouko Ahola, two-time World’s Strongest Man titleholder) as its main attraction. Invincible is very much a film about performance and, because Herzog’s better works are boldly metaphysical, it’s the scenes where Ahola’s Zishe shows off his strength at Hanussen’s freakshow to a roomful of German soldiers that truly resonate as silent acts of defiance. Over the course of two hours, Hanussen slowly comes undone and a brilliant Roth reveals his mad clairvoyant as a self-hating Jew looking to profit from the suffering of his people. By film’s end, the simple Zishe looks to save his people from their imminent fall but they shoo him away with he-doth-protest-too-much care. Sure, Invincicble wears its themes on its sleeve and Ahola is clearly limited as an actor, but the naivete of his performance has a humbling effect on a film that, while entirely too long and short on sizzling imagery, is meant to be taken simply as folkloric.
- Werner Herzog
- Werner Herzog
- Tim Roth, Jouko Ahola, Anna Gourari, Jacob Wein, Max Raabe, Gustav Peter Woehler, Udo Kier
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