The acclaimed Israeli film maker Amos Gitai gives us a truly haunting and sympathetic portrayal of the Holocaust from a perspective that I do not think I have seen presented so well on film. The movie is a moving and powerful meditation on the power of memory, identity and personal reconciliation. How do you live with horrible memories? How do you forgive yourself when you wonder all your life if you did everything that you could to save the lives of others?
The film centers around the historical context of the 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie. Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) is taken with the trial's importance and begins to review old family documents and discovers a distressing "Aryan declaration" written by his late father. This causes Victor to dig deeper and deeper into the past. His mother, Rivka (legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau), tries to keep a deep silence about the past until things begin to close in on her life. Victor's wife and children are concerned but are not quite sure what drives him. Victor takes his family on a holiday trip to a tiny French village where Rivka's parents hid during World War II during the German invasion. The film is told through the journey of a French businessman who becomes obsessed with the secrets of his family past. What he discovers is the central theme of this very compelling story.
This is a film with a dark component but one that is ultimately optimistic. It also gives you a powerful portrayal of modern French life where faith seems all but irrelevant. This is a family portrait of discovery and a fine film. It is 90 minutes and is in French with English subtitles. It is one of the better foreign language films I've seen this year.
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