Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) was a well-loved circus-style entertainer before he was hauled off to a Nazi concentration camp, along with his beloved wife and daughters. There, he encounters a Nazi commandant (Willem Dafoe) who remembers him from his act years ago and takes him into his homenot as a friend, but as his "dog," an entertaining, subservient companion who goes around on all fours, barks, and eats raw meat with the other (actual) dog.
Years later, Stein is a patient at an Israeli mental institution for Holocaust survivors, haunted by his past and prone to some kind of mania. Charming, charismatic, and a bit odd, he is loved by patients (who see him as a kind of savior) and staff (a doctor who is fascinated with his case, a nurse who is fascinated with his more sensual side). One day he discovers a patient on the warda ragged boy who was kept as a dog for his life and can now only cower, bark, whimper, hide, and crawl on his hands and knees. Adam is strangely drawn to the boy, whom he approaches against the rules and dubs "David, king of the dogs," after the king of Israel. As their relationship develops, Adam's humanity begins to crumble, bit by bit. The boy represents a kind of way out to Adam, but his care turns to a twisted jealousy, and it takes a serious encounter with the ghosts of his past to free him from his demons.
Not having read the Yoram Kaniuk novel on which the film is based, I don't know how faithful it is to the book. But some stories are better left on the page, and I suspect this is one of them. It's one of those movies with many good elements that, given a little more finesse, could have added up to something importantbut instead, it's a mess.
While the story's premise is provocative ...1
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