Once, in the 1920s, Adam Stein was a happy man: a caring husband, the proud father of two daughters, and a celebrated star of Berlin’s vaudeville scene. He was a clown, an entertainer and a magician. Thirty years later he is bereft of all these talents. Adam is now a man without a future, or even a present – a man with a past that, like a black hole, drains him of every scrap of energy and deprives him of his will to live. In order to survive the sadistic watch of camp commandant Klein, Adam is forced to behave, literally, like a dog. Years later, long after the war has ended, Adam is still haunted by the demons of his past. He lives with other Holocaust survivors at a sanatorium in the middle of the desert in Israel, where he tries to stifle his pain by performing capers and magic tricks. But how can he continue to believe in human beings after having witnessed the end of humanity in a concentration camp? And then, one day, Adam discovers a patient whose existence has been concealed from him: a twelve-year-old boy who believes he is a dog. The boy doesn’t talk – he barks; he doesn’t walk – he crawls on all fours. Adam’s initial anger soon turns into care and concern. The boy, whom nobody has been able to help, begins to use Adam as a means of support. Together, the two embark upon a painful journey back towards life … This film is based on the eponymous novel by Yoram Kaniuk. When it was published in 1969, the book unleashed a storm of controversy in Israel. It has since been recognised as a masterpiece of modern literature.
by Paul Schrader
with Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Ayelet Zurer, Moritz Bleibtreu, Joachim Krol, Juliane Köhler
USA / Germany / Israel 2008