Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
The Chosen (1981) from Chosen Film Company
Rated PG. (Contains some disturbing Holocaust footage.) Drama, Faith Theme, Historical
Description (from the film case): Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen is the story of two teenage boys who become best friends despite huge differences in their upbringing. Danny (Robby Benson) is the son of an orthodox Hasidic Rabbi (Rod Steiger). Reuven (Barry Miller) comes from a progressive Jewish family whose father (Maximilian Schell) stands at the forefront of the battle for Israeli statehood. Danny’s every moment is devoted to religious study, while Reuven plays jazz piano and is intensely interested in changing the world around him. Their family differences soon force both to make difficult choices.
My thoughts: A film based on one of my all-time favorite books.
Although politics are a passionate part of the story, I don’t like it for the politics. (You know, sometimes I almost hate to use the word, for its connotations. It can be easy to minimize or brush off a complex and crucial human issue by saying it’s “just politics.”)
Anyhow. I like this story for the way it portrays how there are differences within groups, behind the broad labels. “I thought you people only studied Talmud.” You people. One Jewish young man speaking to another.
I like this story for its reflection of fathers and sons. Of friendship. “It is not easy to be a friend.” Especially when your friend is someone you don’t understand.
Reuven has an appropriate level of understatement, Danny has an appropriate level of strangeness. Now, what hit me as the most powerful scene in the book didn’t need as severe a close-up as the film generously gives it. But it still has its own power onscreen, and I can otherwise forgive the moment’s over-generosity for being a product of 1980s filmmaking.
A compelling coming-of-age story indeed.
My corresponding reading: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.
I’m not a super-fan of the trailer, but, hey. Maybe it’s also “1980s forgivable.” 🙂