Movies with Mysterious Jews?
January 16, 2008 6:25 AM   Subscribe

My wife (raised Catholic) and I (raised Jewish) were watching The Exorcist the other day, and she turned to me and asked me if there was any movie where Jews were depicted as secretive, mysterious, and spooky. The best I could do was Lenny Meyer and his fellow Hasids in Pi.

I'm sure there are some low-budget anti-Semitic movies based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but that's not really what I'm looking for here.
posted by Plutor to Religion & Philosophy (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, is a spy story like, say, Munich, what you're looking for?
posted by matteo at 6:35 AM on January 16, 2008

Munich makes the early Israeli government out to be secretive, and mysterious, but not so much spooky. Not as much has Pi did with the Hasids, or The Exorcist with Catholics.
posted by splatta at 6:41 AM on January 16, 2008

I'm not sure of movies you would have seen, but I would guess there might be adaptations of stories like, The Dybbuk or The Golem. There's a long tradition of Jewish mysticism which is mostly tied to the medieval Rabbis and the Hasidim.
posted by JMOZ at 6:44 AM on January 16, 2008

Is Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark Jewish? He performs what's called a "Jewish ritual" by one of the Nazi's before opening the Ark.
posted by oh pollo! at 6:46 AM on January 16, 2008

Fanny and Alexander
posted by grumblebee at 6:46 AM on January 16, 2008

Eyewitness has events that center around an Israeli conspiracy.
posted by Alison at 6:47 AM on January 16, 2008

Michael Mann's The Keep.
posted by oh pollo! at 6:51 AM on January 16, 2008

The Chosen, based on the novel of the same name by Chaim Potok. A little dated now, but good.
posted by Melismata at 7:46 AM on January 16, 2008

Homicide by David Mamet
posted by OmieWise at 7:56 AM on January 16, 2008

The Passion of the Christ?
posted by rocketman at 7:57 AM on January 16, 2008

Creepy? Do all Woody Allen movies count?
Haven't seen it in ages, but maybe "A Stranger Among Us" or similarly, "A Price Above Rubies"?
The Passion of the Christ, obvi
posted by prophetsearcher at 7:59 AM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: Good answers, considering a lot of these are movies I've never heard of. The Chosen I haven't seen since elementary school, maybe I'd get more out of it now.

My wife's going to freak out at ten movies in a row from Netflix with spooky Jews. I'm looking forward to it.
posted by Plutor at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark Jewish? He performs what's called a "Jewish ritual" by one of the Nazi's before opening the Ark.

posted by mkultra at 8:25 AM on January 16, 2008

The Seventh Sign might qualify. The mysterious Jew gets rapidly de-mysterified, IIRC, but it's been quite a long time since I've seen it.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:08 AM on January 16, 2008

Do you mean only US big budget movies? I haven't seen this movie but heard about it. (Portions of this are copied from wikipedia):

Valley of the Wolves Iraq (Turkish: Kurtlar Vadisi Irak) is a popular Turkish film from 2006 based on a television series of the same name that has been a hit in Turkey for three seasons. The movie is set in northern Iraq during the Occupation of Iraq and begins with U.S. forces capturing 11 Turkish special forces soldiers. The film is sometimes referred to as the Turkish Rambo.

The film has been controversial due to its portrayal of US military personnel as well as a Jewish character engaging in the harvesting of organs from from injured Iraqi prisoners to sell to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv for transplantation.
posted by sharkfu at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2008

Bee Season. Here's a pointed review. Prepare to be mystically bored out of your mind.
posted by melissa may at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2008

Snatch contains a scene where characters disguised as Hasidic Jewish rabbis carry on a mysterious, muttered private conversation while walking into some establishment (I think a diamond exchange) which they proceed to rob. The implication of the scene was that the conversation of the rabbis was mysterious, and the employees etc of the establishment would warily respect their privacy.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2008

I think you misunderstand that scene. They're dressed as Hasids, but not necessarily as rabbis, and what buys them entrance is the large number of Jewish diamond traders, coupled with the implication that men wearing Orthodox garb would be devout enough not to be robbers. The large overcoats also provide a place to hide weapons. The mysterious conversation is, I believe, being carried on in Yiddish, and it turns out that Benicio Del Torre speaks heavily accented English in the rest of the film, so we can take it that he's a native speaker. The conversation is not for the sake of mystery, but the opposite, for the sake of making them to appear normal and non-threatening.
posted by OmieWise at 1:13 PM on January 16, 2008

I haven't seen the movie version (I hear it's not very good), but The Little Drummer Girl features mysterious Jewish activity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2008

nthing Fanny and Alexander.
posted by HeroZero at 3:44 PM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: I think maybe you both misunderstand the opening scene of Snatch. They're not speaking Yiddush, they're speaking English. And they're discussing the bible as well as they can (since they're not really bible scholars). And when they come to the diamond exchange, you discover that they're disguised as Hasids so that they're mistaken for someone who was expected ("You've kept us waiting for half an hour. Are you trying to give me heartburn?"). They were trying to pretend to be someone they weren't, and the identity-hiding payot and hair and clothes and beard make the disguise that much more successful.
posted by Plutor at 5:25 AM on January 17, 2008

Israeli film - Ahava Asura, a modern version of The Dybbuk is exactly what you are looking for. I don't know if it exists on DVD, have only ever seen it on video in Israel so good luck.
posted by terrortubby at 4:25 AM on January 18, 2008

Ayelet Zurer who was in Munich (the wife) stars in Ahava Asura.
posted by terrortubby at 4:27 AM on January 18, 2008

Hasodot is another Israeli film that might work, young women doing spooky old rituals in a mystical place, with extraneous lesbian subplot.

Live and Become is really the story of Ethipian Jews brought to Israel but has an older rabbi figure that might work for you.

Also, a bit of a farce, Sima Vaknin Machshefa about a woman who is believed to be a witch.

Mekudeshet is a documentary about women dealing with the rabbinic infrastructure in Israel that is keeping them from religious divorces - very sad and the rabbis can come off like what you're looking for in fiction.
posted by terrortubby at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2008

Plutor, That sounds right. I haven't seen the movie in quite a while, and I thought I probably had some things wrong, but I really didn't think they were being mysterious Jews qua mysterious Jews.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on January 18, 2008

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