I’m reading three splendid books, all which I highly recommend.
The Devil's Arithmetic
My film, The Devil’s Arithmetic, is the best, most fully realized work of my long Hollywood career. It took me seven years to get the picture made.
1. Nothing is easy in Hollywood.
2. Persistence is as important as talent.
I garnered an Emmy Award for my script, an adaptation of Jane Yolen’s wonderful novel. And as much as I loved and respected Jane’s masterful book, a movie is a different universe than a novel. Movies are best when they are about bold characters and unique plots. What is not said or shown—technical term, elipses—is often more important than what is shown. Novels allow for the slow and subtle development of an inner voice as thought becomes drama. Not so with film. Surface and movement dominate. Thus, I made substantial changes in the book. The screenplay is tight and streamlined. I focused on a specific theme and developed this storyline to its logical conclusion.
We shot the film on location in Lithuania where conditions were primitive, miserable. Kirsten Dunst and the late Brittany Murphy were constantly chilled to the bone and sick with fever. Thorough professionals, both young women deliver spectacular, heart-breaking performances.
My original script. Offspring #3, 11 years-old at the time, spent a day at executive producer Dustin Hoffman’s office with Kirsten Dunst, Brittany Murphy and co-executive producer/actress Mimi Rogers, teaching them Passover songs and, more importantly, showing them how a modest and pious Jewish girl behaves. In appreciation, all three actresses signed the title page of my script to Offspring #3.
During production, we discovered that our main location was once a small Jewish village that had been destroyed by the Nazis, all the Jews murdered. The Soviets, who took over after the war, built an army barracks on this Jewish graveyard.
It was a chilling reminder that history is too easily forgotten when rewritten by the forces of evil.
The reason I’m posting about The Devil’s Arithmetic today is because it’s a Passover story, a story of slavery—in the film, slavery to mindless trends and secular humanism—and the need to practice Torah Judaism and remember Jewish history or risk a descent into… nothingness.
You can order the film through Netflix or purchase a DVD from Amazon.
Page 59 of the script, a turning point in the film where Hannah, Kirsten Dunst, a time traveler to Auschwitz from modern America, brings hope to a group of young inmates by telling them the story of The Wizard of Oz (1939) a tale of memory and home.
After sundown tonight we celebrate the final two days of Passover.
Seraphic Secret will be off-line until Wednesday.
We wish our friends and relatives a happy and kosher Passover.
And to our Christian friends a meaningful and blessed Easter.