Jakob The Liar

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama / Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1 non 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - "Awakenings" 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Peter Kassovitz (Director)
Running Time 115:14 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast & Crew
Featurette - Behind The Scenes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (76:05)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Peter Kassovitz

Columbia TriStar
Starring Robin Williams
Alan Arkin
Bob Balaban
Michael Jeter
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Liev Schreiber 
RRP $39.95 Music Edward Schearmur

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
Isolated Musical Score (Dolby Digital 4.0, 448 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
German Commentary
Dutch Commentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I am always intrigued by the diversity of roles performed by Robin Williams, and look forward to seeing any movie he is in. He is a truly gifted actor, and appears to put his whole being into his roles, which is something I respect.

    Jakob The Liar sees him play a Jewish citizen trying to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. His warmth and sincerity infuse the movie with something that is quite at odds with the ambience of the movie - that is, his friends and loved ones being randomly and systematically exterminated and with no real hope in sight. Whilst I find all movies concerning wars depressing and saddening, this one notwithstanding, this is a story of human spirit and the ability to find some hope in the face of hell, even if it is fleeting. That hope is in the form of Jakob's lies; not particularly bad or malicious lies, just white lies telling of invented Allied progress against the German war machine, and that he has a radio from which he hears this good news. Since radios are forbidden, he becomes a hero to his friends (and the whole town), and his tales increase in number and complexity. In reality, he has no radio. It doesn't really matter anyway, so why not let them hear some good news every now and then.

    Granted, the story doesn't sound much, and indeed it could be said to be a little on the insubstantial side, but it is nonetheless certainly worth at least a rent, if for nothing more than the brilliant performances by Robin Williams, Armin Mueller-Stahl and one of my favourites, Alan Arkin.

Transfer Quality


    This is an absolutely sterling transfer from Columbia TriStar, and certainly amongst the best they have produced. This is getting harder to say, since their output is so consistently excellent, but there it is!

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is at all times very sharp whilst having that usual Columbia TriStar film-like softness (hard to describe, beautiful to behold!). Detail was always very high, sometimes remarkably so, and the grittiness and dankness of the whole movie came across very well. The image had a very natural look to it, with absolutely no edge enhancement whatsoever (funny, CTS never bother with this "enhancement" feature - I wonder why? And yes, I am being tongue-in-cheek). Much of the movie takes place in very dim conditions, and I must say this transfer handled it all with consummate grace, displaying truly excellent shadow detail at all times. There were the occasional scenes containing noise, but the vast bulk of the film was free from any blemishes, and with very little film grain.

    The colour palette was very slim for this picture, and it was a tad depressing at times for it. Generally, the image was simply tinted monochrome, almost sepia, though at times very recessed colours did show up. This is no slight of the transfer, but a clear design choice, and most appropriate for the subject matter. You could almost imagine any colouring as being as refreshing and rare as the humour amidst the suffering. The wasn't enough colour for there to be any problem with chroma noise, bleeding or anything else. Still, the image did have a very natural look after I became accustomed to the faint colours.

    There were no MPEG compression artefacts, and once again the image was very film-like as a result. There were also no film artefacts worth mentioning, nor was there any aliasing at all, something not atypical from this studio/distributor.

    The disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 76:05 minutes. It was well placed between chapter stops 17 and 18, and was in no way disruptive to the flow of the movie.


    An interesting little collection of soundtracks on offer. Firstly, the soundtrack is in two Dolby Digital 5.1 languages - English and German, both running at 448 Kilobits per second, which is a nice healthy rate for Dolby Digital 5.1. We also have Director Peter Kassovitz's commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 256 Kilobits per second, and an isolated musical score in Dolby Digital 4.0 running at 448 Kilobits per second. I listened to the English soundtrack, and also had some time with both the commentary and the isolated musical score.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, and with no lip-sync problems above and beyond some minor threats of disassociation on some of Robin Williams' looped dialogue.

    The soundtrack is quite well recorded, having good channel separation, though it is not particularly striking in any way. The movie is dialogue driven, as they say, and the score was there to do its part with the old emotions.

    Surround usage was minimal, and the soundtrack was generally quite frontal. Any surround activity was subtle and generally ambient in nature.

    The subwoofer had little to do, but joined in from time to time.



    The static menu is decent enough, but without any enhancement of any kind.

Theatrical Trailers

  1.  Jakob The Liar (2:15) - Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and in Dolby Digital 5.1, this is a good quality trailer.

  2. Awakenings (2:43) - A favourite of mine, and included as a movie also starring Robin Williams. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, this is certainly showing its age, but is most welcome. It is interesting that this is clearly a composite-sourced trailer. Even so, I quite like the idea of alternate movie trailers, and notice that this is becoming more common in R4 (but nowhere near as common as in R1).

English Audio Commentary

    Actually, it is a bit of a stretch to call this an English commentary, as the Hungarian Director has a bit of trouble with that particular language. Nonetheless, he stumbles through what is really a plain commentary, and although I didn't listen to all of it, I listened to enough to know that it is only vaguely interesting. Still, he dishes out tidbits which only a director can, and its inclusion is, as always, most welcome.

Isolated Musical Score

    This runs for the length of the entire movie, and is presented in Dolby Digital 4.0 running at 448 Kilobits per second.

Biographies - Cast & Crew

Featurette - Making Of (6.24)

    An extended promotional trailer with little to offer, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:     So, R4 is the preferred choice given the wonderful PAL transfer this disc is blessed with.


    A different film, and one which effectively makes use of Robin Williams' unique ability to have an incredible depth of character and be both humorous and sincere at the same time.

    The video is very film-like, and earns reference points.

    The audio is quite plain, but nonetheless well recorded and clear.

    A nice selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (my bio)
6th April, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A350A (S-Video output)
Display Pioneer Rear - Projection SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder Internal Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive