Venice Film Festival: Remember

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Starring Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Bruno Ganz, Jürgen Prochnow, Heinz Lieven, Dean Norris and Henry Czerny

by Dana Jammal

Remember is a “contemporary fable” according to director Atom Egoyan (Ararat, The Sweet Hereafter), a present day story of a dark period in modern history. The story is told from the perspective of Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer), who suffers from early onset dementia, as he sets out on a revenge journey with the goal to find and murder a Nazi guard whom he believes killed his family at Auschwitz many years ago. Following the death of his wife Ruth, Zev is instructed to go on a mission in the form of a letter by his friend Max (Martin Landau), who claims to have found the person responsible for the death of both their families.

Zev’s journey is repetitively interrupted by his memory loss, which is presented with scenes of him waking up with the belief that his wife Ruth is still alive, often calling out her name. Upon waking, the letter is always somewhere in sight, which serves as a reminder and guidance of his mission.

Egoyan highlights the originality of Zev’s character, someone who sees himself as very innocent and because he is perceived to be a kind man, he is helped by the many characters that come his way. The pace is unique in that while it is a thriller, it also seems to parallel the pace of Plummer’s elderly and fragile character yet almost every scene is filled with tension. While the plot is one of revenge, themes of post-holocaust trauma and memory loss come into play as the viewer goes on a unique journey through the present state of Zev’s mind. Egoyan also stresses the important difference between the process of trauma and memory loss as a result of dementia and while both topics appear to play big roles in the film, there is a feeling that they may be approached in a seemingly one dimensional perspective from a psychological viewpoint.

Overall, Plummer does an excellent job at portraying Zev’s character and his interactions with the characters played by Heinz Lieven, Bruno Ganz and Martin Landau – while brief – are still quite powerful. Egoyan points out that “This is the last story that can be told about this period in our present day,” and despite a shocking and unexpected twist, there is a sense that this is where the film’s strength lies most.


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