Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Benjamin August
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Kim Roberts, Amanda Smith, Henry Czerny, T.J. McGibbon, Liza Balkan, Peter DaCunha, Bruno Ganz, Dean Norris, Jürgen Prochnow
Seen on: 28.5.2016
Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer) only barely survived World War 2 in Auschwitz. The rest of his family did not. Now living in the USA, he is old and dementia is slowly grabbing ahold of him. After his wife dies, he finds that the time is finally right to go on a mission and bring down one of the SS officers in Auschwitz who is still at large. Together with his friend Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), Zev has narrowed it down to five people the guard could have assumed the identity of. So Zev flees from the senior residence with a bit of money, a detailed letter that explains everything and a gun, hoping to achieve his goal before his dementia will take him over entirely.
Remember takes you on a slow, painful journey and ends with a kick in the gutts. And in this case, all of those things are really good, although afterwards you’ll probably want a stiff drink.
Remember is not an easy film to pull off. You got a main character with dementia who has to explain to himself over and over again what it actually is he’s doing. You have the structure that is basically built on repetition as well as Zev makes his way from one suspect to the next. But instead of feeling repetitive, Egoyan manages to keep tensions incredibly high, with August’s script ensuring that we don’t actually move in circles, but in an ever tightening spiral.
Plummer is wonderful as the protagonist of the story, who is still just clear enough to know that he often isn’t very clear at all, who has to go through the same realizations over and over again and has to switch between steely-eyed focus on his mission and childhood trauma bubbling up, let loose by dementia that dissolved his own protection mechanisms.
But the supporting cast is fantastic, too, all shedding light on a different aspect of how to live with memories of World War 2. And ultimately that’s what the film is about: showing how much we are still living with that war and the atrocities committed at the time. We can’t ignore it. And even though the generation that witnessed it first hand is dying out, that doesn’t mean that it will be done and over with soon – unless we actively work at clearing up the past and creating some kind of justice. Even if we may discover things we really don’t want to know.
It’s not a revolutionary message and it’s not a new revelation. But looking at how we deal with that particular bit of our pasts, it’s a message that needs repeating over and over again in the hopes that it will finally stick at some point. And Remember is one hell of an impressive way to repeat it.