Entering a cluttered marketplace of World War II-era Holocaust tales (joining "Good," "Defiance," "The Reader," and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"), "Adam Resurrected" does enjoy the novelty of being the strangest film of the pack. A haunting, yet decidedly off-putting odyssey of psychological meltdown and crippling grief, "Resurrection" is built on a foundation of shocking dehumanization, yet doesn't have the sense to pull back and let the images sink in organically.
Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) is a clownish nightclub performer in Berlin during the 1930s, working the crowds with his routines of magic and comedy with the help of his growing family. When Nazi rule was declared throughout the land, Adam is sent to a work camp under the strict control of Commander Klein (Willem Dafoe), who turns Adam into a literal lapdog, forcing the performer to scrape across the floor as his pet. Years later, Adam is returned to an Israeli mental hospital to work on his severe psychological issues, mingling with other Holocaust survivors of fractured mental hold, meeting Davey (Tudor Rapiteanu), a feral boy who he takes under his wing.
Director Paul Schrader (a man always willing to explore those cramped, suffocating parts of the soul) shows little in the way of restraint with "Resurrected," exploring the title character's frantic mission of madness with almost perverse attention to the details of humiliation. An adaptation of the Yorum Kaniuk's surreal novel, "Resurrection" is a comprehensive display of mania, rooted in Adam's frantic state of mind, tempered only by alcohol, sexual distraction with a nurse (Ayelet Zurer), and a like-minded canine manifestation of anguish found in Davey.
The bondage of guilt is woven throughout "Resurrected," often literally at times as Schrader brings out a multitude of iron chain imagery. With the drama moving back and forth between Adam's mental ward hijinks and his devastating camp experience, the film conjures up quite an evocative portrayal of misery, embellished further by Goldblum's agitated performance. However, Schrader can only bring the film so far before the drama begins to erode, leaving Goldblum to pick up and balance the gravity of the situation when required.
It's easy to embrace the spectacle of Goldblum prancing around the frame, blending the instincts of a clown with the heavy heart of a Holocaust survivor. Playing a man employed to entertain Jews on the way to the Nazi ovens (though don't mistake "Resurrected" for "The Day the Clown Cried"), Goldblum latches onto the primal fear of the character, giving the role an interesting quaking quality. However, it's still Jeff Goldblum under the veneer of despair, emphasizing his now-legendary acting mannerisms to cartoonish lengths. Goldblum never loses himself in the role, which severs whatever cathartic qualities Schrader is on the prowl to explore. It's an animated performance, but never a profound one, much too self-conscious to hold the viewer tightly as the plot parades around some extreme displays of behavior, most emerging from a constipated theme of submission.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio), "Resurrected" on DVD endures some issues with EE that take out needed detail feeding reactions and the stark production design. It's not unendurable, but noticeable. Colors fare well, though some of the best looking images emerge from the splendid B&W sequences, which retain their intended dramatic effect. Skintones remain appropriate throughout, and black levels stay under control.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix on the DVD offer the listeners wonderful nightclub atmospherics, vividly arranging Adam's magical feats through solid surround work and a few bass-humming plunges. Concentration camp scenes also evoke dimensionality, though of a more somber nature. Performances are well served by the mix, with accents and exchanges kept crisp and clean enough for proper digestion.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
Of course the feature-length audio commentary with director Paul Schrader is going to be wonderful. A loquacious filmmaker who enjoys the art of post-release deconstruction perhaps even more than the shooting itself, Schrader covers every corner of "Resurrected," wandering around the footage, offering his thoughts and intentions with the picture, spending much of the track dissecting specific camera moves and their dramatic purpose. Schrader is the first to admit the movie doesn't live up to the source material, but his complex thoughts and deeply considered perspective on the entire picture is something to enjoy, even if the film doesn't register quite as thoughtful as intended. For fans of Schrader, it's a required listen.
"Behind the Scenes" (24:00) suffers from a less than satisfactory visual quality, but the footage and recollections here are terrific. Using a wide range of interview clips, the featurette pieces together an informative BTS journey crammed with on-set footage, thematic underlining, and gracious praise (not just outright promotional platitudes).
"Deleted Scenes" (9:32) furthers the dreamlike nature of the piece, with Adam encountering Klein years after the war and displaying a few takes of his splintered headspace in unfinished footage.
"Haifa International Film Festival Q&A" (71:54) sits down with Paul Schrader, author Yoram Kaniuk, and producer Ehud Bleiberg, and basically reiterates much of the information found in the audio commentary, though there's a fascinating literary slant to the discussion. It's lengthy and has more than a few audio problems, but the dialogue does help to understand the film further.
A Theatrical Trailer has been included.
As "Resurrection" steams toward a conclusion, matters simply squirm out of focus, with Schrader taking a few emotional shortcuts to find an end to this claustrophobic film. "Adam Resurrected" definitely has moments of horror that stick out as remarkable, yet the conclusion of the film conveys a sense of moderate relief over life-altering transformation, shortchanging the miracle Goldblum is working overtime to achieve.