The Devil's Arithmetic (film)

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The Devil's Arithmetic
Directed by Donna Deitch
Produced by Lee Gottsegen
Tom Kuhn
Murray Schisgal
Fred Weintraub
Screenplay by Robert J. Avrech
Based on The Devil's Arithmetic
by Jane Yolen
Starring Kirsten Dunst
Brittany Murphy
Paul Freeman
Mimi Rogers
Louise Fletcher
Music by Frédéric Talgorn
Distributed by Showtime
Release date
  • March 28, 1999 (1999-03-28)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Devil's Arithmetic is a 1999 TV movie based on the historical novel of the same name by Jane Yolen. It stars Kirsten Dunst as Hannah Stern and costars Brittany Murphy, Louise Fletcher, and Mimi Rogers. Dustin Hoffman introduces the film but is uncredited and serves as an executive producer with Mimi Rogers.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The film opens with Hannah, a teen girl, in a tattoo parlor with her friends, contemplating what tattoo she wants, before she can decide, she notes the time and realizes she is late for a Passover dinner. Hannah hates going to her family seder as her family tells the same stories and Hannah is tired of hearing about the past, her aunt tells her every year that Hannah looks like her namesake, Chaya, but won't tell Hannah who Chaya was or what she did. During the seder Hannah opens the front door to let in the prophet Elijah, but she sees a Polish village instead of the outside of the apartment. All of a sudden she is not only in a new place but also in the year 1941.

Hannah learns she is in the home of Rivka, who says she is Hannah (now Chaya)'s cousin, and her aunt Gitl, they tell Hannah she has been sick and that should explain her strange ramblings about the future. The next day, the family goes into the village for a wedding, which is interrupted by Nazi soldiers, who say the whole village will be resettled, after a long journey, they arrive at a Nazi concentration camp assumed to be Auschwitz. There, their valuables are stolen, their heads are shorn, they are tattooed, and they are made prisoners.

Life is brutal, but Hannah tells fairy tales and stories to the women in her bunk to keep their spirits up, and she insists that she knows what is coming because of her history classes in school, but no one will believe her. Tensions rise when a family is revealed to have typhus and when a woman goes into labor, some of the men attempt an escape when they find a guard they think they can trust, only to be caught and executed.

One day, the commandant notices that Rivka and other inmates are ill,he orders them to go to the gas chamber, before he can see, Hannah switches places with Rivka. As she enters the gas chamber, she is transported back to the present day, as she rejoins her family at the dinner table, she notes that her aunt has Rivka's number tattooed on her arm, and she tells everyone the story about the Chaya who saved her aunt's life.


The film was shot in Vilnius, Lithuania in fall 1998 and a concentration camp set was built before shooting began and was designed to resemble Auschwitz.[1]



The film received positive reviews and currently has an Audience Score of 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.[2]


External links[edit]