Monday, June 6, 2011

Jason Isaacs (June 6, 1963)

You may know the actor Jason Isaacs only through his most famous role: Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. How interesting that a Jewish actor should play the one character with what I would call serious meaning for secular Jews. Malfoy of course is a wizard aristocrat who – along with arch-villain Lord Voldemort – is obsessed with “pure blood.”

If there is any political allegory in the Harry Potter books, it lies in the way author J.K.Rowling (as well as the writers of the film scripts) dealt with the snobbery and fixations of wizards like Malfoy and how their obsession lures them into the worst evil and power madness. The entire treatment points to the way that English aristocratic obsessions have affected English Jews, as well as darker hints about a comparison to the Nazis. Isaacs' creation of the Malfoy role has seemingly underscored this comparison. I can't help comparing the Malfoy theme with themes of English-Jewish life, as presented by authors like Linda Grant and Howard Jacobson.

Isaacs has had many other roles as well as Malfoy. For example, he played Maurice in the film "Good." In the film, according to an article in the Forward, Maurice is a secular Jewish psychiatrist in pre-war Nazi Germany. "He’s the film’s moral center, despite the fact that — or perhaps because — Maurice is a secular Jew (who doesn’t like Jews) who is also an unapologetic bon vivant. As a self-proclaimed 'Jewish man who does almost nothing Jewish in his life,' Issacs said he could relate."

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