Quick-witted and tough, Jacob Heyn (Brodsky) lives in the frighteningly bleak Jewish ghettos of WWII in Eastern Europe. One night, by accident, he overhears a radio broadcast announcing the slow but steady advance of Soviet troops, and decides to share the news with his friends and neighbors. Before he knows it, the story has spread throughout the ghetto. Unwilling to extinguish the hope hes created for so many, particularly in his desperate friend Mischa (Hübchen), Jacob pretends he is actually in possession of a radio in order to fabricate news broadcasts that will give his compatriots the will to endure.
This original cinematic adaptation of Holocaust survivor Jurek Becker's autobiography manages to be funny and heartbreaking all at once. (Beware the American remake with Robin Williams.) With admirable delicacy, Jacob mines pathos and humor in the blackest of subjects, without diminishing the horrors of the war or demeaning the survivors. Here, those who suffered through the Holocaust are more than anonymous victims — they're real people who might find a reason to smile or laugh, even in the midst of intense suffering. This East German entry, nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, endures as a testament to hope and the human spirit.