Simon Magus (1999, Noah Taylor)

Poster for the movie "Simon Magus"
101 min - Drama, History - 17 February 1999
Our rating:

Continuing its remit to nurture British film-making talent, FilmFour co-funded this delicious fantasy from debutante director Ben Hopkins. Set in late 19th Century Silesia, it focuses on a rural community of indigent Jews threatened with extinction when a new railway line is driven through their lands, destroying their hope of trade.

In secret, dairy farmer Dovid (Stuart Townsend) approaches the local squire (Rutger Haeur) and proposes to buy swampland in order to build a railway station. The squire agrees on condition that he reads a volume of his poetry, but Dovid is unaware of his rival, the wealthy Maximilion Hase (Sean McGinley), who wants to build the station in order to start a pogrom.

To assist him, Hase hires the eccentric, despised figure of Simon Magus (Noah Taylor), who is plagued by visions of the devil (Ian Holm). Under Satanic influence, Magus is persuaded to convince Dovid of the need to withdraw his bid for the land, setting out on a journey which may end with his own self-destruction…

One of the more literate productions of recent years, the film reflects Hopkins' Oxbridge background and his passion for Germany and the Talmud. Yet his film is no elitist thesis, using Nic Knowland's vibrant photography to underwrite themes that remain regretfully relevant.

Hopkins belied his inexperience by running a dynamic, progressive production. "I learnt something new every day," said Holm of his cameo role. "And I firmly believe that if you ever stop learning you might as well go and drive buses." At the film's domestic press conference Hopkins had to consider public transport after his bicycle was removed from the grounds of an exclusive London hotel by staff unaware to whom it belonged.

Cast:  Noah Taylor, Ian Holm, Rutger Haur,

Director:  Ben Hopkins
Production Companies: 

Release Date:  17 February 1999

Running Time:  1 h 41 min

Genres: Drama, History

Language:  English

Tagline: misfit - outcast - turncoat - prophet - hero

Budget and Box Office takings where known