This is one great movie.
Based on a short novel by Philip Roth, it traces the life of a young Jewish man from Newark who arrives at a Christian college in Ohio in 1951.
The kid is very smart, very serious and, like many 20-year-olds, pretty sure that he knows everything. He finds love, in a way, and asserts his convictions with intellectual sincerity.
Unfortunately, at that time and in that place, parents and colleges did not allow young adults much of a margin for error. (There is greater latitude now and a lot more acting out, but this result is not entirely uplifting either, alas.)
When I read the novel — and you do not need to read the novel to appreciate the movie — I thought it was Roth’s meditation on what might have happened to him, an ardent intellectual Jewish kid about the same age in 1951, had events gone a little differently.
Early on, you learn that the story is not an older man’s musings, however, but something more harrowing.
The story is deeply affecting, well written and acted and filmed, but unfortunately it may not be a movie for our age.
This movie does not rush. Its characters are seen in full, in conflict with themselves and, to some extent, with their milieu. The external events flow naturally from the characters’ beliefs and actions. The conclusion is made all the more dramatic because it arises organically from their situations.
I used to watch a lot of foreign movies, and “Indignation” reminded me of some of those. It does not rely on current film formulas that seem to require an explosion of some kind every five minutes or so.
“Indignation” moves at its own pace, a sure-footed novelistic pace in a world where there seem to be more people who think they can write novels than people who read serious literature.