‘Enemies’ remains true to spirit of book

By Vittorio Carli

“Enemies, A Love Story” is a fine adaptation of a novel by the gifted Isaac Bashevis Singer. The movie manages to visualize the 1940’s Jewish community of the novel, but it fails to capture the book’s metaphysical implications. Despite this fact, the movie still remains true to the spirit of the book and it makes for highly provocative viewing.

The film was directed by Paul Mazursky, who has already made a name for himself with such films as “Down and Out in Beverly Hills “and “Moscow on the Hudson”. “Enemies” is his most daring and challenging effort.

Ron Silver plays Herman Broder, a Polish immigrant who has been permanently scarred by his wartime experiences. He occasionally has flashbacks of his Holocaust memories, and he has lost all his faith in humanity and religion. His tragic flaw is that he can not forget the past, and he is his own worst enemy.

Broder gets himself into an complex predicament. He is already married to Yagda (a maid who saved his life in the war) when he marries his mistress, Masha. Later on, his first wife (who he believed was dead) shows up alive. Herman seems to care for all three women, but he is either unwilling or unable to make an exclusive commitment to any one of them.

The performances of the three actress who play his wives are the best part of this film. Anjelica Huston (“The Dead” and “Prizzi’s Honor”) plays Tamara, Herman’s first wife and her character is tough and highly intelligent. A newcomer named Margaret Sophie Stein plays Yagda, the devoted and simpleminded former maid. Lena Olin (“The Unbearable Lightness of Being”) plays the passionate and suicidal Masha.

In certain respects, Tamara is a Christ-like figure. She suffered persecution (at the hands of the Nazis), and she seemingly returns from the dead (In one scene, she even says, “I’ve been resurrected.”) She attempts to serve as Herman’s savior by trying to help him put his life in order.

In another scene, she asks Herman to touch her bullet wound from the war. This scene echoes the biblical passage in which Jesus asks Thomas to feel his wounded side.

The film shows many shots of a ferris wheel. The ferris wheel obviously functions as a symbol in the film. It represents life with all its ups and downs. The roller coaster symbol served a similar purpose in “Parenthood”.

“Enemies, A Love Story” is not a film for everyone. It uses fictional characters to examine the repercussions of a terrible historical event, and is sometimes almost painful to watch. The film should satisfy viewers that are looking for a compelling drama.