Last evening Stacey and I went to see the highly touted movie "An Education." It is a well-acted British film set in London and Oxford in 1961; the young (24) actress Carey Mulligan won rave notices for her portrayal of the under-age heroine, Jenny. The plot line is familiar: the movie is a busted fairy tale, in which the ordinary girl becomes a princess until the moment when her savior turns out to be a frog.
Nothing prepared us for the anti-Semitic line running through the movie. The charming cad -- who turns out to be a con man, a parasite, a philanderer, a thief, and a pervert -- is repeatedly identified as Jewish, gratuitously, for religion plays no part in the seduction narrative. Nothing requires that he be Jewish -- except the perpetuation of a stereotype, the demonizing of "the other," for allegorical purposes. The characters who reflexively voice their anti-Semitic prejudices -- the headmistress of Jenny's school, played by the redoubtable Emma Thompson, reminds the headstrong student that "the Jews killed our Lord" -- are not repudiated but vindicated by the turn of events in the movie. I found this element of the film most chilling, a disturbing reminder of the "genteel" anti-Semitism that I remember from my own time in Britain, and I scratch my head wondering why the vast majority of the critics overlooked this point. David Edelstein, in New York magazine, was an exception: "The story's most obvious lesson is 'beware of Jews bearing flowers.'"
Here is an excerpt from Irina Bragin's excellent piece, "The Wandering Jew in An Education: the Anatomy of an Anti-Semitic Film." -- DL<<<
Jenny: “Oh, and by the way ... David’s a Jew, a wandering Jew. So watch yourself.”
We were only 15 minutes into the film and this was the second reference to the “Wandering Jew,” an age-old, European anti-Semitic stereotype. The British coming-of-age film, “An Education,” had gotten rave reviews, yet the more I watched, the more the character of David Goldman resembled the parasitical Jew of “Der Ewige Juden” (“The Eternal Jew”) — one of the infamous 1930s Nazi propaganda films I had studied in Peter Loewenberg’s class at UCLA.
From the moment David starts following the teenage Jenny in his fancy car, the pudgy, effete David Goldman (played by Peter Sarsgaard) proclaims his ethnicity. (Jenny: “I’m not a Jew.” David: “No, I am. I wasn’t ... accusing you.”) Like the predatory creature characterized in “Der Ewige Juden,” Goldman pretends to adopt the values of his host culture in order to turn its treasures into his profit. He offers Jenny “three five-pound notes” to drive her cello home safely out of the rain; “I’m a music lover,” he tells her. Then he proceeds to corrupt the innocent gentile girl (played by Carey Mulligan) with expensive flowers, gifts, concerts, art auctions and trips to Oxford and Paris.
Read the rest of Irina Bragin's piece here.