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The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic

Sixteen-year-old Long Island teenager, Hannah Stern (Kirsten Dunst), accompanies her mother (Mimi Rogers) and father to visit Aunt Eva (Louise Fletcher) for the Jewish holiday celebration of Passover. Although Hannah has always felt a special bond with Aunt Eva, the youngest girl is not interested in hearing her uncle's stories of the Holocuast.

Reluctantly taking part in the tradition of Seder, Hannah opens the door to prepare for the arrival of the prophet Elijah, and she is mysteriously transporter to Poland in the year 1941. Lying in a comfortable, but antiquated bedroom, Hannah is greeted by a young girl, Rivkah (Brittany Murphy), and the girl's mother, Mina. They seem to recognize Hannah as being a completely different person and they inform her that she has just recovered from an illness.

Hannah is welcomed into the activities of the village and attends the wedding of Leah and Shmuel. The ceremony is interrupted by Nazi soldiers who, despite protests from a courageous rabbi, torch the synagogue and haul everyone away to a concentration camp. Inside the camp, which is administered by the intimidating Commandant Krieger, all the captured Jewish people are tattooed and their heads are shaven. The infants, the elderly and the feeble are exterminated, while the others remain in camp to toil under harsh and inhumane conditions.

Somehow, the prisoners manage to maintain the humanity. To lend spiritual encouragement, Hannah and a few other girls prepare a Seder dinner, which now has a deeper meaning for Hannah. Hannah and Rivkah develop a close friendship, but Rivkah soon becomes ill. Hannah is surprised to hear Rivkah say that if she should ever escape, Rivkah would change her name to Eva. It is then that Hannah makes the connection between past and present, realizing that Rivkah is in reality, her beloved Eva as a young girl.

When Commandant Krieger orders Rivkah removed from the field, Hannah quickly trades places with her sick friend, knowing that those deemed unfit to work are put to death. Naked and freezing in the bitter night air, Hannah feels a sense of calm as she prepares to enter the crematorium with dozens of other women. She knows that she will see Rivhak/Aunt Eva again in a different place and time. As the gas pellets begin to strike, Hannah re-awakens on the floor of Aunt Eva's apartment, back in the present.

Concerned relatives hover over her, dismissing her "fainting" as the effects of too much wine. Hannah privately shares her experiences with Aunt Eva, who is stunned by the accuracy of Hannah's 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 Hannah will now pass it on to the next generation. Hannah is renewed and reborn with a sense of pride as she listens to her Uncle Abe recite a spiritual passage about the importance of having hope for the future.