This week Jews and others around the world celebrated Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed every year since 1959 to "never forget" the murder of six million Jews during World War II. Loosely based on a novel of the same name by Canadian author Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces by Jeremy Podeswa whose father was a Holocaust survivor, touches on an often-overlooked aspect of the tragedy, that those who have managed to survive deep trauma may be unable to rid themselves of their obsessions. The film spans a period of roughly 35 years, beginning in 1942 and concluding in the late 1970, going back and forth in time between the events of childhood and present time. Set in Biskupin, Poland during World War II, seven-year old Jakob Beer (Robbie Kay) witnesses the murder of his parents and the abduction of his beloved sister Bella by German soldiers. Disregarding Bella's instructions to remain at home, Jakob runs away. Hiding in the forest, he plants himself into the ground "like a turnip", hiding his face with leaves until he is discovered by Athos Roussos (Rade Serbedzija), a warm hearted Zorba-like Greek archaeologist on a dig. Athos brings the traumatized boy to his home on the sun-drenched island of Zakynthos in Greece where they live through the Nazi occupation, suffering deprivation but surviving the atrocities that befall Greece's Jewish community. The relationship between Jakob and Athos is slow to develop but they eventually form a bond. "I will be your koumbaros, your godfather," Athos says. "We must carry each other. If we don't have this, what are we?" After the war, Athos receives a teaching position in Canada and they move there hoping to forget the past. Jakob, now played as an adult by Stephen Dillane, has neighbors who are also Jewish immigrants and he develops a close relationship with Ben (Ed Stoppard) who he watches grow into a gifted writer. Though Jakob has become a successful writer in Canada himself, his marriage to the lovely Alex (Rosamund Pike) is threatened by haunting memories of Bella and his obsession with the Holocaust. Her vivacity and joy for life is in sharp contrast to his solemnity and he "longs for the loss of memory", and writes about his wife's "shameless vitality" saying, "To live with ghosts requires solitude". After their breakup, Jakob falls in love with Micheala (Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer), a scholar twenty-five years his junior, and her charm and intelligence allows him to venture out of his shell. Fugitive Pieces is a quiet and sensitive film that has a touching poetic quality and Robbie Kay turns in one of the best child performances I have seen in years. Though the film often becomes too literary and does not soar dramatically, its message is strong - that though we should never forget a tragedy, there may be a steep price for remembering.
Drama / War
Drama / War
A child escapes from Poland during World War II and first heads to Greece before coming of age in Canada.
December 12, 2020