Synopsis by Mark Deming
In this powerful and disturbing drama, Danny Balint (Ryan Gosling) is a member of a gang of racist skinheads who espouses a vile but well-articulated philosophy of anti-Semitism. Danny also has a secret -- he is a Jew, and was a top student in Hebrew school before he began to ask too many questions about the deeper implications of the teachings in the Torah and the Old Testament, leading to his expulsion. Angry and confused, Danny began to explore the philosophies of the neo-Nazi movement, which he soon came to embrace through a mixture of anger over the tragic history of the Jewish people, bitterness over his experiences in Hebrew school, and a loathing of himself. Danny soon becomes a key member of a skinhead sect led by Curtis (Billy Zane) and Lina (Theresa Russell), but while Curtis and Lina believe that the desire for cultural assimilation by many American Jews will lead to their self-destruction, Danny advocates a more direct and violent approach in dealing with the "enemy." Danny gains the admiration of his fellow skinheads for his intelligence and commitment, and wins the affection of Carla (Summer Phoenix), a group member with severe masochistic tendencies. But in time Danny's beliefs begin to shift once again, just as the truth about his background becomes known to his comrades. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, The Believer was inspired by the true story of Daniel Burros, a member of the American Nazi Party who committed suicide in the 1960s when it was revealed by the press that he was born to a Jewish family.
anti-Semitism, Hebrew, masochism, Neo-Nazi, skinhead, synagogue, white-supremacy, Torah