Jakob the Liar by Peter Kassovitz and Frank Beyer


Jakobthe Liar by Peter Kassovitz and Frank Beyer

Thetwo films, “Jacob the Liar” by Frank Beyer and Peter Kassovitzare based on the novel “Jacob the Liar” which was written by aJewish author Jurek Becker in 1969 way earlier before the developmentof these two films. The two films generally follow the events asdescribed in the novel depicting the life of Jacob, a Jewishshopkeeper arrested for being outside during curfew. In the process,Jacob overhears some hopeful news from the station and later spreadsthe information to other Jews. Events unfold as he has to lie inorder to make the information seem authentic. Although the films arebased upon a similar story, there are several characteristicdifferences which bring out varied perceptions out of the viewers. Itis important to note that Frank Beyer’s film was produced in 1975while Kassovitz’s was produced in 1999.

Comparisonand contrast

Firstoff, the film by Frank Beyer utilized an internal narrator who givesout the ghetto story with focus on the situations, challenges andexperiences in relation to Jacob. This narrator does not give moreinsight on the deeper thoughts of the main character. This issignificantly contrast with the Kassovitz film in which the narratoris Jacob himself who gives out his own story and experiences. Thisverbal stream of thinking in words clearly involve the viewer toparticipate in Jacob’s thoughts and emotions. In addition thequalities and personality of Jacob has been characterized differentlyby the two films. In Beyer’s film, Jacob is depicted as afraid, shyand solitary and he becomes a hero by chance rather than character.His physical features are not appealing and he looks worn-out.Kassovitz on the other hand portrays a strikingly different characterwhich depicts Jacob as an admirable person who provides hope in theface of danger to the other Jews in the Ghetto.

Theuse of humor is a major tool that has been used in both films. Thishumor scenarios stimulate laughter and amusement despite theknowledge that the general situation surrounding the films involveterrible circumstances. The humor in Beyer’s film is articulate,funny and inspiring to the viewers. It however does not commandinfluence throughout the whole film unlike the Kassovitz film wherehumor begins at the start of the film and is present almostthroughout the entire film. In this instance however, the humor isquite crude and exaggerated which contrasts from the originality ofthe humor displayed in the 1974 film for example when Jacob narratesa joke about Hitler and the Fortuneteller, The fortuneteller tellsHitler that any day he will die will be a Jewish Holiday.

Theendings of these two films are remarkably different. In Beyer’sfilm, there is an ending which is marked by a sad ending in which heand his fellow Jews are bundled onto a train possibly beingtransported to the extermination camps. The stillness of the peoplein the train indicate the possible outcome of the journey Death.Different from this film which has only one ending, the Kassovitzfilm has two endings. The first ending is where Jacob is shot forrefusing to acknowledge the lies that he had told his fellow Jewsjust before he could make his own utterances regarding hisinformation. He is defiant to the end and this is shown by a heroicsmile that he gives. The second ending in this film is depicted bythe arrival of the Soviet forces who appear just in the nick of timeto free the Jews in the train being deported to extermination camps.

Thesetwo films also differ from the original novel in certain instances.It is quite clear that the backbone of the story remains unchangedand that is the event involving Jacob and the hopeful news he instilsinto the minds of the Jews in the Ghetto. Beyer’s film tends tomove closer to the original novel throughout the story especially inthe characterization of Jacob as well as the humor. This can beattributed to the fact that Beyer’s film was the first to beproduces and thus the originality of the novel had to be replicatedin the film. This however does change since the ending in the noveldiffers from Beyer’s film ending. In the novel, Jacob is shot whilein the process of escaping from the ghetto while the second endingindicates that the Jews were all deported to extermination camps.Kassovitz film however is quite different from the beginning in termsof portraying Jacob as a liberator and a hero. The humor involved isalso quite different from both the novel and the 1975 film whichshows a significant diversion of originality. This diversion isfurther moved away from the original novel by the heroic death ofJacob in the presence of his people. The second ending however doesnot divert away from the original novel which shows the rescue of theJews by the Russians or Soviet forces.

Inconclusion, these two films have their own similarities anddifferences. The similarities are accounted for by the original storyin the novel by Jurek Becker. However, the notable difference couldhave arisen due to several factors. The fact that the two films wereproduced in different countries could contribute to this variation.In addition, the films were also made in different decades, bydifferent producers and possibly for different audiences who wantedto portray the main character Jacob as well as the final ending in acontext that suited the circumstances.


Sarah,R. (2009, November 30). AScottish Journey Through German Film.Retrieved from schottischereise:http://schottischereise.blogspot.co.ke/2009/11/while-watching-credits-of-peter.html