The torturer’s greatest art, so it is said, is to make his victims go on torturing themselves — for life, if possible. That certainly seems the fate of Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), a Jewish comedian of genius in prewar Berlin, who is unable to save his family when the Nazi genocide overtakes them and only survives a concentration camp himself by becoming the literal pet of the camp’s commandant (Willem Dafoe).

These harrowing memories torment Adam in 1961, when he is the star patient at a special mental hospital built for Holocaust survivors in the Israeli desert (where most of Adam Resurrected is set). A charismatic marvel of wit and physical self-control (he can bleed at will), Adam is a compulsive Casanova, whose first language would seem to be seduction. He charms circles around his doctors (led by Derek Jacobi), who in turn let him toy with them, hoping that this will help them to crack the impenetrable labyrinth of suffering that overtakes Adam whenever his manic humor fails him.

Director Paul Schrader and screenwriter Noah Stollman, adapting Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk’s 1968 novel, establish a structure highly akin to Fellini’s 8 1/2: The hero “takes a cure,” while memories, dreams and reflections (and several complicated women) relentlessly crowd him. Goldblum is ideally, even blazingly suited to such a role — it is hard to recall when, if ever, a part has asked more of his actorly gifts — and his scenes with Dafoe in the concentration camp are painful in the best sense. Where Fellini made ecstasy contagious, Schrader is after much darker vistas — the mystery of how good men fail, and condemn themselves. One cannot recommend this film strongly enough.

ADAM RESURRECTED | Directed by PAUL SCHRADER | Written by NOAH STOLLMAN, based on the novel by YORAM KANIUK | Produced by EHUD BLEIBERG and WERNER WIRSING | Released by Bleiberg Entertainment | Sunset 5

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