Everything Is Illuminated (2005) - full transcript

Jewish-American writer Jonathan Safran Foer is a collector of his family's memorabilia, although most of the items, some which he takes without asking, would not be considered keepsakes by the average person. He places most of those items in individual Ziploc bags, and hangs them on his keepsake wall under the photograph of the person to who it is most associated. He has this compulsion in an effort to remember. He is able to tie a photograph that he receives from his grandmother, Sabine Foer, on her deathbed - it of his grandfather, Safran Foer, during the war in the Ukraine, and a young woman he will learn is named Augustine - back to a pendant he stole from his grandfather on his deathbed in 1989, the pendant of a glass encased grasshopper. Learning that Augustine somehow saved his grandfather's life leads to Jonathan going on a quest to find out the story at its source where the photograph was taken, in a now non-existent and probably largely forgotten town called Trachimbrod that was razed by the Nazis during the war, he armed only with his limited knowledge, the pendant, his grandfather's Star of David necklace, the photograph, tip "money", and an old and largely outdated map. Prior to arriving in the Ukraine, Jonathan prearranges the guide services of Odessa-based Heritage Tours, which specializes in helping Jewish expats discover their past. The company is owned and operated by three generations of the Alexander Perchov family, who generally think Jewish people are stupid for wanting to revisit their past, and spend large sums of money for their services in doing so. The three from Heritage assigned to Jonathan's file are: the company founder Alexander I ("Grandpa"), the retired, non-blind blind man who will be the driver; his "seeing eye" dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., a deranged bitch of a dog; and Alexander III ("Alex"), a western pop cultural loving young man, whose broken English will need to suffice for translation. Jonathan will learn that his guides are a loving but dysfunctional lot who have little interest in helping him beyond taking his money. But during their time together, this quest will affect Jonathan, Grandpa and Alex in different ways, all tied to the value of remembering.

Everything is Illuminated

I will be truthful and mention...

that before our rigid search...

I had the opinion Jewish people
were having shit between their brains.

Primarily, this is because all I knew
of Jewish people...

was that they paid Father
very much currency...

in order to make vacations
from America to Ukraine.

I was of the opinion
that the past is past...

and like all that is not now,
it should remain buried...

along the side of our memories.

But this was before the commencement
of our very rigid search.

Before I encountered the collector...

Jonathan Safran Foer.

Your grandfather wanted you
to have this...

for your collection.

Who is Augustine?


Where did you get that hat?

Alex gave it to me.

Take it off.


Because I told you to, that's why.

I think he looks cool.

Who asked you to speak?

Did I ask you to speak?

Did Mama ask you to speak?

Did Grandfather ask you to speak?


Don't talk to her like that!

Papa, I already have one son
walking around Odessa...

looking like a raving lunatic.

I don't need another.

But, Papa...

My legal name is Alexander Perchov...

but all of my friends dub me Alex...

because this is much more flaccid
to utter.

That is Father retrieving his fist
from the right side of my face.

Father is a first-rate puncher.

This is my miniature brother, Igor.

I am tutoring him to be a man
of this world.

For an example, I exhibited him
a smutty magazine three days yore.

Why is it called sixty-nine?

I explain it to him that this is because
it was invented in the year 1969.

I know this
because my friend Grisha...

knows a friend of the nephew
of the inventor.

What did people do before 1969?

He is a genius, my miniature brother.

He will be made a VIP
if I have a thing to do with it.

This is Grandfather. Like my father
and myself, he too is dubbed Alex.

My grandmother, Anna, died two years
before of a cancer in her brain.

Precluding this,
Grandfather became very melancholy...

and also, he says, blind.

His most recent employment
was Heritage Tours...

a business he started in 1950s...

mostly for aiding rich Jewish people
to search for their dead families.

It is a strange employment
for Grandfather...

as there is nothing he hates more than
rich Jewish people or their dead families.

This is Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

She is Grandfather's Seeing Eye bitch.

Father purchased her for him not because
he believes Grandfather is blind...

but because a Seeing Eye bitch
is also a good thing...

for people who pine for
the opposite of loneliness.

In truth,
Father did not purchase her at all...

but merely retrieved her
from the home for forgetful dogs.

Because of this,
she is not a real Seeing Eye bitch...

and is also mentally deranged.

Most of all, she relishes when I sing
to her her most beloved song...

"Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson.

But now I must tell you
more of myself.

I am unequivocally tall. I do not know
any women who are taller than me.

The women who are taller than me
are lesbians...

for whom 1969
was a very momentous year.

For me, America is a first-rate place.


Most of all, I am beloved
of American movies, muscular cars...

and hip-hop music.

I also dig Negroes.
Most of all, Michael Jackson.

He is a first-rate dancer, just like me.

Many girls want to be carnal with me
because I'm such a premium dancer.

You're taking
a Jew to Lutsk this weekend.

- I can't, I have plans.
- What plans?

With Grisha at Club Zephyr.

Well, now you're taking
a Jew to Lutsk.

But we have VIP passes.

Papa, I need you to drive them.

Go to hell!
I'm not driving anyone.

they are paying $1200 American.

I don't care. I'm retired.
No more dead Jews.

Papa, you drive him to this place...

show him everyone is dead
and you come home.

It will be so simple.

He's looking for a woman who saved
his grandfather from the Nazis.

Trust me,
there is no one there anymore.

She is from someplace called...


It's near Lutsk.
They said he has a map.

His name is Jonathan S. Foer.
He is a writer.

He wants to write a book
about the place.

Okay, I'll go.

But Sammy goes too.

Papa, please,
you know that is impossible.

She's demented!

You listen to me.

I'm supposed to be retired.

I am not supposed to
be dragging rich Jews...

all over the goddamn country.

I'm blind. BLIND!

My bitch is my eyes.
I'm not going anywhere without her.

Papa, I'm not saying
that I don't believe you're blind...

but the American could have
a problem with this.

No bitch, no driver.

We could make a uniform for her...

to make her seem more official.


Are you Jonfen?


Jonfen. Are you Jonfen?

It's Jonathan.


My name. It's Jonathan.


Are you my translator?

Yes, I'm Alexander Perchov.
I'll be your humble translator.

I implore you to forgive my speaking
of English, Jonfen...

as I'm not so premium with it.

My name is Jonathan.

This is our driver.
He is an expert at driving.

- Is he all right?
- What?

I mean, you know, is he healthy?

Of course. He's my grandfather.


Please, do not be distressed.
This is only driver's Seeing Eye bitch.

Okay, she's deranged,
but so, so playful.

Wait, he's blind?

No, only he thinks this.
Please, do not be distressed.


Grandfather, I've got Jonfen.
We should go to Lutsk.


Are you sure he's okay?

- Grandfather!
- Shut up!

I'm blind, not deaf.
I heard you the first time!

What does he say?

He says, "Okay-dokey,
we will go now."

- Where will the dog be?
- What do you mean?

I have a phobia.

A fear.

I'm distressed by dogs.


He is afraid of dogs.

no one is afraid of dogs.

Grandfather informs me
this is not possible.


Get in the car.

The bitch and the Jew
will share the back seat.

It is big enough for both of them.

No, wait. Wait.
You don't understand.

I have a very serious, serious problem
with dogs.

I can't sit in there. You...

Were you able to manufacture
the Zzz?

- What?
- The Z's.

Were you able to make the Zzz?

- I don't understand.
- Repose.

- Did you repose?
- Oh.

Yeah, I reposed.

Good. Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.
is also in repose.

- Why do you call her that?
- What?

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

Because Sammy Davis Jr.
was Grandfather's most beloved singer.

You know, The Candy Man.
The Negro from the Rat Pack.

- And a Jew.
- What?

Yeah, he was a Jew.
You didn't know that?

Grandfather, the Jew says that

Sammy Davis Jr. is Jewish.

The bitch?

Not Jr. Jr., Jr. the singer.

That's bullshit!

Grandfather informs me
that this is not possible.

Of course it is. He converted. He's
the most famous black Jew in America.

Please tell me,
is the Shaq also the Jew?

- Who?
- Shaquille O'Neal, the Los Angeles Laker.

- No.
- And Michael Jackson?

No, definitely not a Jew.

Father informs me you are writing a book
about this trip. You are a writer?


Then what is this?

It's a catalog.



I don't know why they told you that.

I'm not a writer.

I mean, I write, but I'm more of...

a collector, really.

And what do you collect?


Family things.

It is a good career, yes?

No, it's not a career.
It's just something I do.


I don't know. Why does anybody
do anything? It's just something to do.

I understand.

I also enjoy writing...

but I truly feel I was born
to be accountant.

Are we close?

The Jew
wants to know if we are close.

Tell him to shut the hell up!

Grandfather says we're very proximal.

He says it will not be long
until we get to the super-way to Lutsk.

And from there?

How long from here to Lutsk?

Perhaps you would like me
to stop the car...

and you two can
fuck yourselves to Lutsk!

What did he say?

Grandfather says to look out the
window at the premium countryside.

- Are you hungry?
- Yes.

- I hope they have something I can eat.
- What do you mean?

I'm a vegetarian.

You're a what?

I don't eat meat.

How can you not eat meat?

I just don't.

He says he does not eat meat.


- No meat?
- No meat.

- Steak?
- No.

- Chickens?
- No.

And what about the sausage?

No, no sausage. No meat.

He says he does not eat any meat.

Not even sausage?

I know.

What is wrong with him?

What is wrong with you?

Nothing. I just don't eat meat.


Excuse me,
do you have anything without meat?


Our friend here is American...

I can see that.

Yes, of course,
but he does not eat meat.

What is wrong with him?

What did she say?

She says they do not have anything
without meat.

Don't they have potatoes
or something?


You only get
potato with the meat.

The potatoes come
only with the meat.

But can't I have a potato
on a plate by itself?

Please, this American is deranged.

Would it be possible to have
a potato without the meat?

Welcome to Ukraine.

- And these are your family?
- Yeah.

My grandmother gave me this.

That's my grandfather, Safran.
It was taken during the war.

Whoa. It's you.

I've heard that.

- And this is Augustine?
- Yeah.

My mother said that he never
would have made it to America...

if it weren't for her.

And she's from Trachimbrod?

Or somewhere near there.

This is Kolki. My grandmother's shtetl.


It's a village.

It's Yiddish, it means "village." It
doesn't seem to be far from Trachimbrod.

That's why I was thinking
it might be called Sofiewka now.

Why do you make such a rigid search?

I guess I just wanted to see
where my grandfather grew up...

where I would be now
if he hadn't come to America.

You would be Ukrainian, like me.

Only not like me, because you would be
a farmer from some unimpressive town...

- and I am from Odessa.
- I see.

And did your grandparents ever return
to Ukraine?

God, no. My grandmother would go crazy
if she knew I was here.


She didn't think it was safe.

She said that before the war,
Ukraine was just as bad as Berlin.

Jews weren't exactly popular
in Ukraine.

When the Nazis invaded, she actually
thought it would be an improvement.

Who told you this?

My grandmother.

Why did she say this?

I don't know. It's just how she felt.


he says Ukrainians were
anti-Semitic before the war.

Is it true?


It's nice.

Really, it's just for sleeping.

- Jonfen?
- Yeah.

You were very proximal
with your grandfather, yes?

Yeah. Why?

Tomorrow we will make a search.

Good night.

Good night.

Make sure to secure the door
when I am gone.

I do not want
to make you petrified person...

but there are many
dangerous people...

who want to take things
from Americans...

and also kidnap them. Okay?


Good night.

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

Come on, let's go.

He seems like a good person.

Yes, he does.

We should try to help him.


We should try to find her.



- What is it?
- Soviets.

What happened?



We are looking for Trachimbrod.

Do you know it?

You heard of Trachimbrod?

Never heard of it!

Come here, please!

Come here!

It's a small village...


Mention the other names to him.

Perhaps one will sound informal.

Kovel', Kivertsy, Sokirentsy.

Maybe Kolki?

Yes, yes.

Could you direct us to them?

Of course.
They are not so far.

Go north on the super-way.

Keep going north...

- until you see wheat fields...
- Uh-huh.

Then head east
through the farmlands.

Thank you.

Here. Thank you.

- What is he doing?
- What is he doing?

- What are you doing?
- For helping us.

- What?
- I read in my guidebook...

you can't find
Marlboro cigarettes here...

so you should take them everywhere
as tips.

He doesn't eat meat.

Thank you.

What is "tips"?

Tips are something you give someone...

- in exchange for help.
- Uh-huh.

You are informed you will be paying
for this trip with currency, yes?

Not like that. Tips are for
small things, like directions or the valet.

- Valet?
- Guy who parks your car.

Why do you not park your own car?

How much currency would a first-rate
accountant receive in America?

I don't know.
A lot, probably, if he or she is good.


Or he.

Are there Negro accountants?

Yes, there are African-American

- but you don't want to use that word.
- And homosexual accountants?

There are homosexual everything's.
There are homosexual garbage men.

And how much currency would
Negro homosexual accountant receive?

You really shouldn't use that word.

- Which word?
- The N-word.

- It's not the N-word, but...
- Negro?

Yeah, that one.

But I dig them all the way.
They are premium people.

It's that word, though.
You're not supposed to use that word.

What is wrong with the Negroes?

- Are you carnal very often?
- What?

With American girls,
you make sex often?

Not really. Do you?

I inquired Headmost. Do you?

Not really.

What do you intend by "not really"?

I'm not a priest,
but I'm not John Holmes, either.

I've heard of this John Holmes.
With a premium penis.

Yeah, that's the one.

In the Ukraine,
everybody has a penis like that.

What about the women?

You make a joke, no?


Come, Zlata, come.

Do you have any chewing gum?

Do you know where Trachimbrod is?

What's in Trachimbrod?

Nothing, it's just a place
we are trying to find.

If there's nothing there,
why are you trying to find it?

Why do you ask stupid questions?


Where are we?

I don't know.

Ask the Jew.

- Where are we?
- I'm not sure.

He doesn't know.

What do you mean, he doesn't know?
We're driving! How can he not know!

- What do you mean, you don't know?
- None of the roads have names.

I thought you were a certified guide.

Grandfather is certified.

- Please, you're making this impossible.
- Shut up!

This is pointless!
We don't know where we are.

"Shut up" means shut up!

Grandfather, we should stop.

What are you doing?

Maybe we should stop
and ask someone.

Go and ask them.

Leave the Jew here.

I'm not a moron, you know.

I know what that word means.

What word?

It's Russian for "Jew," isn't it?

Wait! I'm coming too.

- What are you doing?
- I'm coming with you.

- You should not do this.
- Why not? I can help.

You cannot help.
You cannot even speak.

It is bad enough
that I am from Odessa.

I won't speak.
I promise, I won't say a word.

Excuse me, could you tell me,
do you know where Trachimbrod is?

Never heard of it.

Thank you.

Hey, wait! What are you doing?

They do not know.

What about Sofiewka?
Did you ask them about Sofiewka?

I'm sorry, I forgot,
it's also called Sofiewka.

What do you want?
I told you I never heard of it!

What's your problem, huh?

Maybe you've seen this woman?

What are you doing?

We are trying to find
the town of Trachimbrod.

I told you, we don't know.

Do you want a Marlboro cigarette?

Get lost! Go back to Kiev!

I'm not from Kiev,
I'm from Odessa.

Then go back to Odessa!

- What did they say?
- Nothing.

They said nothing.

Hey, Odessa!
You forgot your dog!

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., come here!

Hey! Don't do that!

Why were you speaking English?

I commanded you not to speak!
You understand me, yes?

- Yes.
- Then why did you speak?

- I don't know.
- Now they all think...

I'm stupid American tourist,
like you!

- I'm sorry.
- Why do you not listen?

This is not your country!

You little piece of shit!

Don't you put your
filthy hands on her!

If you ever hit her again...

I swear to God,
I'll cut your hands off!

Do you understand,
you piece of shit?



What are you doing?

We're out of gas.



Do you think my grandfather is...?



What do you mean?

What do you mean, what do I mean?
I do not mean anything.


If I meant to say something else,
I would say something else.

Something is not right.

It is as if he's dreaming
all of the time...

even when he is not in repose.

Why don't you ask him.

No. That is impossible.

You found gas?

Alex, get up, it's time to go.

What time is it?

He found gas.

It's beautiful.

Tell him this is the most fertile
land in Eastern Europe.

Grandfather wishes me to tell you...

that this is the most premium land
for farming.

It's so green.

Before the war, this was
the most beautiful place in the world.

You were here before the war?

Tell him about Odessa.

Tell him that the sand on the beaches
is more soft than a woman's hair...

and that Odessa is the perfect place...

to fall in love and start a family.


Ask there.

I'm sorry to bother you.

How could anything bother me
on such a day?

Where are you from?


I have never been to Odessa.

You should go there.

Have you ever heard of a town
called Trachimbrod?

I was told that
I should ask here.

Please, I don't want to trouble you...

but have you heard of Trachimbrod?

I am sorry I bothered you.

Have you ever seen
anyone in this photograph?

Have you ever seen
anyone in this photograph?

Have you ever seen
anyone in this photograph?

I have been waiting so long.

We are searching for Trachimbrod.

You are here.

I am it.

Weddings and Other Celebrations

Silver, Pinwheels, Perfume

Journals, Sketchbooks, Underwear

Death of the First Born

Wooden Toys

Figurines, Spectacles



Are you hungry?


I can cook you something.

Please don't make any effort.

It is nothing, but I must tell you...

I don't have any meat.


Thank you, but we are not hungry.

It has been so long since
I have had any visitors.

Do you live alone here?

You have someone?

I have all of them.

What did she say?

I'm not so sure.

What are they?

They are Trachimbrod.

She says they are Trachimbrod.

In Case

This is my sister's wedding ring.

'Tis a wedding ring.

She hid it in a jar
and put it in the ground.

I knew this because she told me.

Many people did this.

The ground by the river is still
filled with precious things:

Rings, money, pictures,
Jewish things.

I was only able to find a few of them...

but they fill the earth.

She's also a collector.

Does she remember my grandfather?

Do you remember his grandfather?

Who is his grandfather?

The man in the photo.




My family, they...

In case I...

My family wanted you to have this.

For everything that you did.

What is this?

For what you have done for them.

What have I done for them?

Safran was his grandfather.


He means Augustine.

That is Augustine, that is Mama,
that is me.

This is Safran, Augustine and me.

Mama was so fond of Safran,
he was so polite.

He would tell her she was pretty...

when in truth
she was not so pretty.

I was older, so Mama thought
he should marry me instead.

But he was in love.

She says your grandfather
was in love with Augustine.

They were married on her name day.

When we were kids,
my sister, Safran and I...

played kissing games
behind the trees.

I can still remember how I felt.

It was a little like flying.

Tell him.

She remembers kissing
your grandfather...

and she flew a little.

What is your name?

This is Baruch...

in front of the library.

He used to sit there
all day long.

He took out more books
than anyone in the shtetl...

and he could not even read!

He said
he liked to think about the books...

think about them
without reading them.

He would always walk around
with a book under his arm.

Mama would say.

They said he was insane.

We had this in common.

Leave us.

Leave us alone.

Jonfen, what you said at the hotel
about Ukrainians before the war...


Do you think it's possible
that my grandfather, he...

Your shirt's inside out.


Your shirt, it's inside out.

What does it mean, "inside out"?

Nothing, it's just that the inside
of your shirt is on the outside...

and the outside is on...

Forget it.

Why do you do this?

Maybe sometimes I'm afraid I'll forget.

Jonfen, I want you to know,
my grandfather...

he's a good person.

We're going.

We're going to Trachimbrod.

To the river.

She's agreed to take us there.

What's the matter?

I have never been in one of those.

She's never been in a car before.

Well, tell her they're safe now.
She shouldn't be scared.

Please, don't be scared.
Cars are totally safe now.

They even have air bags,
crumple zones.

Maybe not this one...

but most!

Sammy, sit.

Please, you have nothing to fear.

I cannot.

This is it.

What is this?

This is Trachimbrod.

We are here.

This monument stands in memory
of the 1024 Trachimbroders...

killed at the hands of German fascism
on March 18, 1942.

This is all that is left.
They destroyed everything.

Only a few were able to get out
before they came.

You were lucky to survive.

They put us in lines.

Made lists.

It was all very logical.

They burned the synagogue.

What is she saying?

That was the first thing they did.

They burned the synagogue.

Then they unrolled a Torah on the ground
and told the men to spit on it.

They unrolled something on the ground
and told them to spit on it.

My father would make us kiss
any book that touched the ground.

Cooking books. Books for children,
plays, even journals...

and this was our Torah...

It was their Torah.

That had been in our synagogue...

since the first rabbi brought it here
300 years before.

First was Yosef.

First man was Yosef.

He was a shoemaker.

They held a gun to his daughter's head...

and commanded him to spit.

And told him to spit on the Torah.

He spit. They all spit.

And tore and kicked
and whatever else they were told to do.


my father.

They all spit.

Except her father.

And then...

my sister.


She was pregnant.

She was pregnant.

They put the gun to her pregnant belly.

They said they would kill the
baby inside her if my father did not spit.

He could not.

He would not spit.

Her father would not spit.

He did not spit.

I made one for you.

They're from the riverbank.

The Brod.


And where was his grandfather?

Safran was gone before they came.

He was gone before they came.


He left for America...

to find a home for
Augustine and the baby...

one week before they came.

He went to America to find a place for
them, and she was killed a week later.

Please tell her there's something
I want to give her.

I think it was her sister's.

Yes, it was.

One moment, please.

For you.

I can't.

He says he cannot.

But he must...

he is a collector.

She says you must take it.
You're the collector.

In Case

I didn't understand why my sister
hid her wedding ring in a jar...

and why she said to me,
"In case."

In case what?

In case she was killed.

Yes, and then what?
Why did she bury it?

I do not know.

Ask him.

She wants to know why Augustine...

buried her wedding ring
when she thought she would be killed.

So there'd be proof that she existed?

To remember her.

No. I don't think so.

In case...

In case someone should
come searching one day.

So they would have
something to find.

No, it does not exist for you.

You exist for it.

You have come because it exists.

She says the ring
is not here because of us.

We are here because of the ring.

Alex, tell her...

Thank you.


May I ask you a question?

Yes, of course.

Is the war over?


It is over.


Look, there's something
I want you to have.

It was my grandfather's.

It was nice knowing you, Sammy.


I have reflected many times
upon our rigid search.

It has shown me...

that everything is illuminated
in the light of the past.

It is always along the side of us...

on the inside, looking out.

Like you say, inside out.

Jonfen, in this way, I will always be
along the side of your life.

And you will always be along
the side of mine.

Our families will be with us,
and our families' families.

Your grandfather.

And perhaps, in some way,
my grandfather as well.

It is possible I will never know why
Grandfather did this to himself.

Perhaps he wished to bury his life...

along the side of his past.

But I must tell you, Jonfen...

in this moment, he seemed,
as if for the first time in his life...

contented to be where he was.

Jonfen, I am sending you this...

because we have shared something
to exist for.

And, of course,
in case anyone comes searching.

Alexander Baruch Perchov

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.!