The Giraffe

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Romance, Thriller

An ambitious thriller that's undermined by some stiff performances but tackles provocative issues of identity and responsibility. Businessman David Fish (director/co-screenwriter Dani Levy) is a New Yorker chafing at his Orthodox Jewish family's proscriptive beliefs. Lena Katz (co-scripter Maria Schrader) also lives in New York; she's forced to examine...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An ambitious thriller that's undermined by some stiff performances but tackles provocative issues of identity and responsibility. Businessman David Fish (director/co-screenwriter Dani Levy) is a New Yorker chafing at his Orthodox Jewish family's proscriptive

beliefs. Lena Katz (co-scripter Maria Schrader) also lives in New York; she's forced to examine her Jewish heritage when her family's factory in Germany is torched by neo-Nazis. Coincidence appears to bring David and Lena together. Lena's mother, Ruth (Nicole Heesters), is in town to celebrate her

birthday; Lena comes by Ruth's hotel and finds a middle-aged woman crumpled in the hallway, bloody and unconscious. The woman is Mrs. Fish (Lynn Cohen); it's her birthday as well and we later learn that, oddly enough, her first name is also Ruth. Lena and David meet at the hospital, where Mrs.

Fish dies of her injuries. Neither Lena nor David is aware that their mothers knew each other. Neither can imagine the tangle of lies that bound the Ruths together, a shared history rooted in the Nazi extermination of German Jews. But they won't remain ignorant for long. Shortly before her death,

Mrs. Fish identified a newspaper photo as the father she thought died in a concentration camp; the man is actually Lena's grandfather, who's very much alive. David hired lawyer Charles Kaminski (David Strathairn) to look into the matter, and Kaminski's probing insures that the truth will

eventually come out, no matter how much pain it causes. Within the framework of a romantic thriller, Swiss-born, Berlin-based filmmaker Levy and his frequent collaborator Schrader explore a series of thorny questions: What does it mean to be a Jew? How much responsibility for the Holocaust is

borne by Germans two generations removed from their country's Nazi past? Do just ends warrant brutal and illegal means? The film isn't entirely successful, but it's never boring or predictable.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An ambitious thriller that's undermined by some stiff performances but tackles provocative issues of identity and responsibility. Businessman David Fish (director/co-screenwriter Dani Levy) is a New Yorker chafing at his Orthodox Jewish family's proscripti… (more)

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