What is the basic plot of the film (write a synopsis)?
Released in 2001 to critical acclaim, director Henry Bean's The Believer presents a searing story of an individual's tragic struggle to form their own identity through overt acts of religious and racial intolerance. Played by Ryan Gosling, the protagonist of The Believer is a Daniel Balint, a troubled young man who has fashioned himself into a Neo-Nazi after violently rejecting his Jewish heritage. During his adolescence Balint rebelled against the orthodox authority of the Jewish religion, questioning the teachings of the Torah during his time as yeshiva student before ultimately refusing to obey a God he considers to be merely a bully. Set in contemporary New York City, The Believer tells the tale of Balint's slow descent into bigotry and fanaticism after he encounters a group of fascists organized by skinheads sympathetic to his existing prejudices against Jews and other minorities.
After engaging in an escalating series of crimes against African-American and Jewish targets, Balint is briefly jailed before returning home to visit his sister and their ailing father. During this respite from his increasingly intolerant lifestyle, Balint reminisces about his experiences during Hebrew school and engages in a lighthearted discussion with his father regarding the Shabbat and its seemingly outdated restrictions on daily life. Following this reminder of his true self, Balint meets Guy Danielson, a reporter working on a series of articles covering right-wing extremist groups, and the two engage in a heated interview in which Balint conveys his anti-Semitic philosophy. When Danielson reveals his knowledge of Balint's Jewish background, the disturbed young man threatens to commit suicide is the truth is ever made public.
The film then moves to the scene of a fascist skinhead retreat organized by Balint's new group of friends. After yet another brush with law, resulting from his haranguing of customers at a Jewish deli, Balint is forced to attend sensitivity training. Here, he listens to Holocaust survivors remember the loss of their loved ones, but rather than express sympathy Balint becomes outraged at a Jewish father who was forced to witness his infant son's murders at the hands of Nazi forces. For the remainder of The Believer, Balint is haunted by recurring visions of this man's story, and the viewer is given glimpses into his fractured psyche as Balint envisions the story with himself as both the Nazi perpetrator and the victimized Jewish father. Despite this conflicted state of mind, Balint and his group break into a synagogue and vandalize the house of worship, but when his friends begin desecrating a Torah scroll the former yeshiva student objects. Balint eventually takes the damaged scroll home with him and attempts to repair it, all the while descending into a state of madness as he imagines himself both as a Nazi and a Jew. The splintering of Balint's identity is finalized when he attempts to bomb a synagogue and the worshippers within, before deciding to save his intended victims and sacrifice himself instead.
- What crimes does the protagonist undertake?
During the course of The Believer, Daniel Balint engaged in an increasingly serious series of crimes against the targets of his racial and religious bigotry. Along with his fellow fascist skinheads, Balint conspires to attack Jews and even offers to assassinate a Jewish banker named Ilio Manzetti. Balint instigates a physical altercation with a pair of African-Americans, thus committing the crimes of disorderly conduct and assault, and repeats these actions to provoke a fight at a Jewish deli. The most contemptible crime committed by Balint occurs when the synagogue is being vandalized, as his group plants an explosive device beneath the pulpit in an attempt to maim, injure or kill Jewish worshippers. Balint also commits the crime of acting as an accomplice to murder during the attempt on Manzetti's life, and finally, he murders Drake after the explosives expert discovers his identity as a Jew.
- Why does the protagonist undertake these crimes?
Despite his seemingly normal upbringing as a Jewish youth in modern America, Daniel Balint succumbed to the virulent undercurrent of anti-Semitism and racial bigotry which has consumed fringe elements of American society. His association with fellow Neo-Nazis and fascists serves to embolden Balint, and he soon becomes…