The story of how the 1975 film "Jacob the Liar" ("Jakob der Lügner") was made may be even more interesting than the film itself. And since the film is the only East German film to ever get nominated for an Academy Award, that's saying something.
You'll likely get the whole story at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday when the film will screen as part of the Matinee Movie Classics series at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. That's because Shaun O’L. Higgins will be doing the presenting.
Higgins is one of the hosts of Spokane Public Television's Saturday Night Cinema.
In brief, production on the film began in 1966. Due to a number of difficulties, from government censorship to the virtual blackballing of the film's projected director, Frank Beyer, production was stopped. Screenwriter Jurek Becker then turned his screenplay into a novel, which was published in 1969, and production on the film eventually resumed in 1974.
A version of the film was screened on television before it was finally released in theaters in April 1975.
"Jacob the Liar," which is set during the final months of World War II, tells the story of a man — the Jacob of the film's title — who resides in a German-controlled Jewish ghetto in Poland. When he learns by chance that the Soviet army is approaching, he spreads the news — only no one believes him. So he lies and says that he heard the news on a radio that he has hidden. And he begins inventing further news, which his neighbors believe.
In his review in the New York Times, critic A.H. Weiler wrote that "if there is little doubt as to the drama's inevitable, tragic denouement, 'Jacob the Liar' is, in effect, a heartwarming saga and one that illustrates Mark Twain's observation that 'courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, and not the absence of fear.' "
And don't confuse the 1975 film, which is in German with English subtitles, with the 1999 remake starring Robin Williams. That film was described by The Washington Post this way: "But the best thing about 'Jakob the Liar' is that it's not 'Patch Adams at Auschwitz.' "