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It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl - Movie Review

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It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl - Movie Review

Photograph of Theodor Herzl from 'It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl'

Moriah Films

A Tribute to the Founder of Modern Israel

In It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl, filmmaker Richard Trank profiles the very forceful, determined and complex man who is credited with the foundation of the modern state of Israel.

The film, which was produced by the documentary division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is an in depth study of how Herzl's circumstances and philosophy were impacted by the blatant expressions of antisemitism that he observed occurring in increasing frequency throughout Europe.

Herzl was of Jewish heritage, but was raised in a family that was secular in its thinking and completely assimilated in its lifestyle. However, as he observed social, cultural and political trends in Europe, Herzl became convinced that people of Jewish heritage would be at risk until they established a homeland, an independent state where their safety and rights were guaranteed.

That was an opinion that he came to gradually. Herzl was born in Budapest and raised in German-speaking Vienna, Herzl actually considered himself to be German. While studying law in Vienna, he actually joined a German nationalist youth group called Burschenschaft Albia -- but he eventually resigned from the club because some of the members of the group were blatantly antisemitic. Herzl's concerns redoubled while he was working in Paris as journalist for the Neue Freie Presse and covering the Dreyfus trial. He was convinced that Dreyfus was guilty, but was greatly alarmed by the antisemitic rhetoric that surfaced during the trial. He felt it was indicative of the rampant spread of antisemitic sentiment across Europe.

It was shortly after the Dreyfus trial that Herzl began to believe firmly that Jews must consider leaving the continent in order to find a place where they could establish a homeland, a Jewish state, where their personal safety, civil rights and freedom to practice their religion would be assured.

The Modern Zionist Movement

Herzl's adamant advocacy for the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland was the core element of the development of the modern Zionist movement worldwide.

Using archival footage, the film follows Herzl, as he became the leading proponent of modern Zionism, traveled around the globe, meeting with heads of state and religious leaders and lecturing to small and massive gatherings of people to convince them that there was a need and righteousness for the creation of an independent Jewish state. The initial plan was for the Jews to settle in Argentina, but tradition, politics and circumstances made Israel the final choice.

While chronicling Herzl's life and times, the film also looks at his personal life, the family tensions, personal struggles and health issues he faced while dedicating himself to his cause. Through consideration of this fascinating man, the film explores the subject of Jewish identity in both its religious and secular contexts.

Bringing Herzl To Life

In addition to making excellent use of archival footage, Richard Trask incorporates into the film's narrative tracts from Herzl's penetrating writings, which are effectively voiced by Christoph Waltz. Sir Ben Kingsley reads the film's scene-setting and analytic narration, which fits Herzl's efforts into the broad context of the international politics of the day.

The bottom line is that Herzl was an absolutely fascinating man, and he proves to be a most compelling character this excellent film.

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Film Details:

  • Title: It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl
  • Director: Richard Trank
  • U.S. Theatrical Release Date: August 8, 2012
  • Running Time: 70 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Locations: Germany, Austria, Palestine, Israel, and other locales
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Moriah Films
  • Distribution Company: Moriah Films
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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