The Devil's Arithmetic
Showtime Networks

Kirsten Dunst (Hannah Stern), Mimi Rogers (Lenore Stern), Stewart Bick (Burton Stern), Louise Fletcher (Aunt Eva), Brittany Murphy (Rivkah), Lilo Baur (Mina), Nitzan Sharron (Ariel), Paul Freeman (Rabbi), Mendel Rimantas Bagdzevicius (Photographer), Rachel Roddy (Esther), Ieva Jackeviciute (Miriam), Shelly Skandrani (Leah), Daniel Brocklebank (Shmuel), Daniel Rausch (Officer Steinbach), Irina Soloveicik (Sarah). .

Directed By Donna Deitch, Screenplay By Robert J. Avrech And Murray Schisgal, Based Upon The Novel By Jane Yolen, Executive Producers: Dustin Hoffman, Jay Cohen, Murray Schisgal, Lee Gottsegen, Mimi Rogers, Chris Ciaffa, Steve Hewitt , Co-Executive Producer Robert J. Avrech, Director Of Photography Jacek Laskus, Production Designed By Greg Melton, Edited By Robin Katz, Casting By Maria Armstrong, Casting Associate Catherine Fogarty, Supervising Music Producer Spencer Proffer , Costume Designers Daiva Petrulyte, Alex Kavanagh.

Genre: Drama

Summary: Hannah Stern (Kirsten Dunst) is a 16-year-old spoiled New Rochelle, NY teenager who would rather hang out with her friends than celebrate the Jewish holiday Passover with her family. While considering getting a tattoo at a local parlor, Hannah suddenly realizes the time and reluctantly hurries home to prepare for the Seder at her Aunt Eva's (Louise Fletcher) home.

Accompanying her mother (Mimi Rogers) and father (Stewart Bick) to the home of Aunt Eva, with whom she has always felt a special kinship, Hannah listens with disinterest to spiritual readings and her uncle's telling of Holocaust stories that she has heard countless times.

Asked to open the door for the arrival of the prophet Elijah, an important tradition of the Seder, Hannah reluctantly complies. After swinging open the door, she is strangely drawn into the hall and toward the presence of an eerie light. Transfixed, she follows the light down the hallway and suddenly awakens in a different time and place, beginning an incredible experience that will forever change her feelings about the past and present.

Looking around an antiquated bedroom while lying in a comfortable bed, Hannah sees the kind and concerned faces of young Rivkah (Brittany Murphy) and Rivkah's mother Mina (Lilo Baur), who inform Hannah that she has just awakened from an illness that has also claimed the lives of her parents. Believing herself to be lost in a dream, Hannah is stunned to learn she is in Poland in the year 1941, and that everyone appears to know her as a different person. She is welcomed into the activities of the nearby village and attends the festive wedding of Leah (Shelly Skandrani) and Shmuel (Daniel Brocklebank).

As Hannah begins to enjoy her inexplicable hallucination, the ceremony is interrupted by the frightening intrusion of Nazi soldiers. Despite protests from a courageous rabbi (Paul Freeman), the troops herd the Jewish celebrants, along with the bride and groom, into trucks and haul them away to a concentration camp. The Nazis then torch the synagogue.

Inside the camp, which is administered by the intimidating Commandant Krieger (Philip Rham), Hannah, Rivkah and the others are given identification tattoos and have their hair roughly shorn. Soon afterwards, infants and the old and feeble are taken away for immediate extermination, while the 'fortunate' ones remain in camp to toil in the harshest and most severe conditions imaginable.

In the midst of this horror, the prisoners somehow find ways to maintain their humanity and forge a day-to-day existence. Hannah forms a close friendship with Rivkah and renders comfort to the children by telling them bedtime stories, such as 'The Wizard of Oz.'

Forced to work at hard labor, with little food and insufficient clothing, Hannah and Rivkah struggle to endure the deplorable environment and the agony of seeing women and children sent to the crematoriums.

To lend spiritual encouragement, Hannah and a few other girls prepare a Seder dinner under much different circumstances than in her previous life in Brooklyn. Rivkah, however, has fallen ill. She tells Hannah that if she ever escapes she will change her name to 'Eva,' finally giving Hannah a glimpse of the connection between the present and the future. Hannah promises Rivkah that she will survive.

As Hannah and Rivkah labor in the fields the next afternoon, Commandant Krieger notices that Rivkah is ill and orders her removed from the field. Knowing that those deemed unfit to work are put to death, Hannah utilizes a momentary distraction to assume Rivkah's identity and stand in her place with the other unfortunate souls who have been pulled from the lines.

Later that evening, naked and freezing in the bitter night air as she prepares to enter the crematorium with dozens of other women, Hannah is imbued with a sense of calm assurance. She understands that Rivkah is in truth her beloved Aunt Eva, and that she will know her again in a different time and place.

As the gas pellets begin to strike, Hannah re-awakens on the floor of Aunt Eva's apartment, with concerned relatives hovering over her. While everyone dismisses Hannah's fainting as the effects of too much wine, Hannah privately shares her experience with Aunt Eva, who is stunned by the accuracy of her account. 'I have never told anybody, not even your parents,' she whispers to Hannah.

Now eager to celebrate the Seder, Hannah understands she has been taught an unforgettable lesson about her family and religious heritage. It has been passed on from Aunt Eva in a most extraordinary way, and is one she herself will pass on to the next generation when the time is right. She now listens with interest and understanding to her Uncle Abe as he recites:

'While the angel of Death promised oblivion, the end of the Jewish people, the good angel whispered of hope. Some of us saw this angel, talked to her. Some of us only hear about her. But she was real. And she taught us to remember the future.'