|The Devil's Arithmetic|
|Directed by||Donna Deitch|
|Screenplay by||Robert J. Avrech|
|Based on||The Devil's Arithmetic|
by Jane Yolen
|Produced by||Lee Gottsegen|
|Music by||Frédéric Talgorn|
The Devil's Arithmetic is a 1999 TV movie based on the historical novel of the same name by Jane Yolen. It stars Kirsten Dunst as Hannah Stern and costars Brittany Murphy, Louise Fletcher, and Mimi Rogers. Dustin Hoffman introduces the film but is uncredited and serves as an executive producer with Mimi Rogers.
The film opens with Hannah, a teen girl, in a tattoo parlor with her friends, contemplating what tattoo she wants. Before she can decide, she notes the time and realizes she is late for a Passover dinner. Hannah hates going to her family seder as her family tells the same stories and Hannah is tired of hearing about the past. Her aunt tells her every year that Hannah looks like her namesake, Chana, but won't tell Hannah who Chana was or what she did. During the seder Hannah opens the front door to let in the prophet Elijah, but she sees a Polish village instead of the outside of the apartment. All of a sudden she is not only in a new place but also in the year 1941.
Hannah learns she is in the home of Rivka, who says she is Hannah (now Chana)'s cousin, and her aunt Gitl. They tell Hannah she has been sick and that should explain her strange ramblings about the future. The next day, the family goes into the village for a wedding, which is interrupted by Nazi soldiers, who say the whole village will be resettled. After a long journey, they arrive at a Nazi concentration camp. There, their valuables are stolen, their heads are shorn, they are tattooed, and they are made prisoners.
Life is brutal, but Hannah tells fairy tales and stories to the women in her bunk to keep their spirits up, and she insists that she knows what is coming because of her history classes in school, but no one will believe her. Tensions rise when a family is revealed to have typhus and when a woman goes into labor, some of the men attempt an escape when they find a guard they think they can trust, only to be caught and executed.
One day, the commandant notices that Rivka and other inmates are ill, so he orders them to go to the gas chamber. Before he can see, Hannah switches places with Rivka. As she enters the gas chamber, she is transported back to the present day, awakening surrounded by her family, who tell her she had too much to drink (and presumably passed out). She embraces her aunt Eva and calls her Rivka, to her astonishment. They speak privately and Hannah fills in details she did not previously know. The movie ends with the entire family singing traditional songs at the table - the teenage Hannah is no longer alienated but is now part of the family.
- Kirsten Dunst as Hannah Stern/Chana Abramowicz
- Brittany Murphy as Rivka
- Paul Freeman as Rabbi
- Mimi Rogers as Leonore Stern
- Louise Fletcher as Aunt Eva
- Daniel Brocklebank as Shmuel
- Shelly Skandrani as Leah
- Philip Rham as Commandant Krieger
- Daniel Rausch as Sgt. Steinbach
- Kristy McFarland as Yetta
- Paulina Soloveičik as Sarah
- Lilo Baur as Mina
- Nitzan Sharron as Ariel
- Rachel Roddy as Esther
- Ivea Jackevičiūtė as Miriam
- Stewart Bick as Burton Stern
- Vaidotas Martinaitis as Hans
- Inga Tuminienė as Ingrid
- Nijolė Narmontaitė as Hedwig
- Leonardas Pobedonoscevas as Isaac
- Ava Finch as Aliza
- Louis Negin as Uncle Morris
- Re-Creating the Scene of the Crimes Los Angeles Times. 28 March 1999