The Devil's Arithmetic (1999)

TV Movie   |  Not Rated   |    |  Drama, Fantasy, War


The Devil's Arithmetic (1999) Poster

A 16-year-old American girl with an apathetic view towards her Jewish family history finds herself pulled through time into 1941 to a small Polish village where the Nazis have just begun their genocidal propaganda.


6.5/10
3,743

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User Reviews


20 December 2003 | jep831
surprisingly good
I think the movie is even better than the book, and the book is excellent. The movie changed Hannah and Rivkeh to be in their mid-teens rather than only about 11 as in the "Young Adult" novel. This might have been done for an "inside-the-box" reason, namely so that the director could work with more mature performers. But whatever the reason, the change was for the better, as it made the story more realistic to me -- I can "buy" that 16-year-olds could survive without parents in a concentration camp, but not 11-year-olds!

I expected a good performance from Kirsten Dunst, who is known for serious work. But the one who was a revelation was Brittany Murphy, more associated with (mediocre) light comedy (such as "Summer Catch" and "Just Married"). With dark hair, dark eyes and a believable Polish accent, she utterly disappears into the role of Rivkeh.

To answer a question posed by a previous poster, about why the great-aunt changed her name ... one reason, not obvious to the casual viewer, comes out of Jewish tradition. It is an old custom for a Jew, after having narrowly escaped death, to take a completely different first name. The (somewhat superstitious) belief is that you are trying to fool the Angel of Death; if you have a different name now, he won't realize it's you and therefore won't try to take you again! The other two reasons are more obvious: She was honoring her friend who sacrificed her life for her, and she was beginning a new life in America (many Jews and others took new names when they immigrated).

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Details

Release Date:

28 March 1999

Language

English


Country of Origin

USA

Filming Locations

Ontario, Canada

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