The original title of the drama The Believer (2001) When director Henry Bean found out that had taken a different translation for his work – The Believer – he did not object and even considered it more accurate. The storyline of the film story was taken from an article in The New York Times weekly. It was about a neo-fascist with Jewish roots who vowed to commit suicide if the public became aware of his origins. When journalists published a revealing article, he “stepped towards God” from the window of a skyscraper.
Danny Balint, the protagonist of The Believer, is a fascist fanatic and a Jewish fanatic at the same time. A yeshiva student who dreamed of being a rabbi since the age of 12 shaves his head 10 years later, puts on a T-shirt with a swastika on his chest and goes to preach anti-Semitic theories. In the end, the guy dies, at the cost of his life, preventing an explosion in the synagogue, prepared by his neo-Nazi accomplices. Such is the inevitable tragic end of a man whose short path through life was a road to self-destruction, since it represented an endless argument not so much with others, but with himself.
What made a boy who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family become a skinhead? Furious and passionate, aggressive and cruel, but at the same time doubtful and unimaginably suffering, Danny answers this question in every frame of the film “Fanatic” with his actions and burning eyes.
The problem of young Balint is that he is a freethinker, a strong and outstanding personality, for whom it is impossible to live, following the strict rules of Judaism. He did not fully accept the religion that he did not choose himself, but received from birth, due to the imposition of strict orders, excessive adherence to traditions and attention to external paraphernalia. At the same time, he deeply studied the Torah, had theological disputes with teachers and wanted to find his own way to God. Analyzing the history of a long-suffering and humiliated people, Danny accused his nation of eternal subordination, passivity, and inability to fight back. He didn’t want to be that Jewish.
The internal protest was strengthened when, at the age of 12, he was expelled from a religious school for being impudent and standing up for his opinion. Strength of character, strong temper, oratorical talent, the ability to captivate and lead the guy to where, in his opinion, there was freedom. Involved in a neo-Nazi organization that skillfully exploits the youth’s strong personality theory, Danny doesn’t realize he’s trapped. Having abandoned some rules, he fell into the trap of others, more rigid and merciless.
Together with the skins, Danny takes part in pogroms, beats Hasidic children in street fights, mocks the visitors of a kosher restaurant. He makes incendiary speeches, propagating hatred of Jews among the bourgeois stratum, humiliates and accuses an old man who survived the Holocaust of cowardice before the Nazis. The authority of the skinhead among his associates is growing, but in his heart he is a failed rabbi. Blaming the religion of the void, based solely on ritual, getting rid of the formal similarities, Danny is looking for his way to God. At night, she studies ancient Hebrew manuscripts, attends kosher events, and gives lessons in her native language to her perverted and reckless fascist girlfriend.
While preaching anti-Semitism, Danny lives in constant fear that his origins will be revealed. His doubting soul, torn apart by internal contradictions, is also restless. But one day an adamant young man, displeased with God, instead of “shalom” told him to “go away.”. And now, having a completely biblical desire to humiliate the ideologically vulnerable God, Danny is ready to go to the end. Being a dangerous radical for his nation, he actually strives to free it from centuries of obedience, to achieve internal emancipation of the Jews. His theory is simple: either achieve the rebirth of a weak people, or completely destroy them. His attitude towards the Jews is a protest from within, born in the environment that he now wants to destroy. And ardent hatred is just the other side of belonging.
Planning another pogrom, the neo-fascists decided to blow up the synagogue. The failed rabbi demands from the skinheads who found themselves inside the sanctuary not to touch the sacred parchments of the Sefer Torah (God will punish, even if you look at the main sacred objects of Judaism). It becomes obvious that in his struggle, Danny is not ready to go to any end. He still has something sacred in his soul. And then it all ends: the main character dies, preventing the explosion and in this way atoning for his sins.
The argument, which was started in childhood with a yeshiva teacher, the guy continued with himself. Finding no answers, suffering from duality, Danny Balint was ready to explode from the inside. And this happened to him not only morally, but also physically at the end of the film “Fanatic”.
The uncompromising and fearless picture of Henry Bean, challenging the modern ideologists of Hitlerism and anti-Semites, kindles a head-on controversy and, in fact, is a film debate. In form, it is a well-tailored American cinema with elements of journalism and Jewish-style multi-layered semantic content.