Friday, 7 October 2011


I did watch the Werner Hezog film Invincible based on the life of the polish Circus strong man performer to came to the USA, obtained citizenship and died comparatively young after a nail he hammered with his fist into a block of wood went through and pierced his knee, became infected and he died of blood poisoning despite several operations to try and save him including the amputation of both his legs. His feats of strength were extraordinary and made him into a legend and he was the first to sell commercially a body building programme.

Werner has take the basic facts and created a conflict between the strength of body and the strength of mind in the couple of years before Hitler seized power in Germany. The film opens in an East Poland rural small town where Zishe Breibart works as a Blacksmith with his father and adored by his young brother. The family are orthodox Jews with traditional and conventional values of the day. In the opening sequence because he has earned a few coppers he takes his young brother for a meal into the nearby restaurant and bar whereas a group of young men insult their Jewishness to an extent that eventual Zishe loses his temper and in the eschewing fight breaks a table and a full beer barrel. He wants to pay for the damage but has no more money so the owner suggests he enters a contest to defeat the alleged world’s strongest man. There is a substantial cash prize offered which he wins without difficulty.

The next part of the film is creative fiction. Herzog has changed the dates of the life of Zishe so that it is only just before Hitler taking power in Germany that a theatrical agent visits the family and offers Zishe a new life as a strongman act in Berlin. After waiting for the Passover and consulting local Rabbi, Zishe decides to take up the offer but instead of using the first class ticket he cashes this in to provide new clothes for his family and walks the distance carrying his battered suitcase.

He is placed to work in a night club style theatre club with a stage, scantily clad female dancers, magician and other acts where the star is an occultist fortune teller played by Tim Roth. He also has an inner sanctum where he sits within a round table telling the fortunes of those who have paid to participate in the special sessions, In addition he does a stage mind reading act of the type where an individual writes down a special event such as a murder which gained a lot of publicity and gives coded clues which enable Roth to reveal the main facts to great acclaim.

Zishe is dressed up as an Aryan with fake blonde hair and his acts of strength are such he becomes a favourite with the audience which then comprises mainly supporters of Hitler. He develops a friendship with the pianist who is a stateless classical artist who has become the plaything of the Roth who is also prone to violence. Life has become good for Zishe and then the situation begins to change for everyone. His younger brother arrives, a strange boy, who is wise beyond his years and who convinces Zishe to be proud of Jewish heritage with the consequence that he takes off his Aryan wig and announces is the new Jewish Samson. This horrifies the Nazi followers who feel betrayed but the wealthy Jews of Berlin flock to give him support causing great tension between the two groups.

This also causes problems for Hanussen who attempts to discredit Zishe by alleging it his power which controls Samson and creates a stunt in which he appears to control Marta, the pianist to also perform acts of great strength. He also attempts to ingratiate himself with Himmler and Goebbels, and supports the rise of Hitler getting himself a post as Minister of the Occult. However a confrontation occurs during a party of top level Nazi’s on a boating trip between Zishe and Hanussen over his treatment of Marta and this leads to a challenge over the authenticity of the power of the Occultist which one of the Nazis suggests can only be settled in court.

At the trial the man is not only exposed as a con artist who has pretended to by a variety of well known people in the past but is really Jewish with the name Herschel Steinschneider. He is taken away by the Nazis and murdered. Zishe returns to Poland convinced that he is seeing real visions of the future which include an unknown but terrifying threat to all Jewish people and he attempts to create an army to protect Jews from what is to come, although only few listen. It is during one attempt to influence that he is challenged to show his physical strength and the accident with the nail occurs. In hospital and in delirium he has a vision of his younger brother flying to safety from rocks covered with the red crabs that have to cross over land to where they lay their eggs. They have to cross over a railway line oblivious to the advancing train which will squash to death all those in its path.

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