Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fugitive Pieces: Laying the Ground Work

A warning to those given to feelings of depression. The slow, bleak, heart rending journey of Fugitive Pieces to its uplifting finish may not seem worth the effort at times. Jakob Beer (Robby Kay), a seven year old Polish Jew, loses his family at the hands of Nazi troops. He is spirited away by a Greek archaeologist Athos Roussos (Rade Šerbedžija), first to Greece where he is house-bound hiding from the Germans and then to post war Canada. The adult Jakob (Stephen Dillane) continues to be haunted by this experience, with nightmares filled by memories of his sister Bella (Nina Dobrev).

He combats the dark side by writing. The path takes him from private journal to successful author of his autobiographical Ground Work. Jakob's Toronto Jewish neighbours mirror his struggle with the legacy of the holocaust, in particular their son Ben (Ed Stoppard).

Jeremy Podeswa was both screenwriter and director. The script is based on Canadian poet Anne Michaels’ novel of the same name. His use of flashbacks is well controlled, as Jakob relives the war years and different periods of his later life in Canada and Greece.

This is another multi-lingual film. English is the main language but Polish, Yiddish and Greek are used extensively with sub-titles. The sombre music by Nikos Kypourgos underlines the gloomy tones of Fugitive Pieces.

Stephen Dillane, known for his roles in Welcome to Sarajevo and The Hours, gives a very severe performance. Rosamund Pike as Alex and Ayelet Zurer as Michaela are the two serious attempts by Jakob to sustain a stable relationship. Their bright portrayals help to moderate this severity.

Fugitive Pieces is worth the effort but go prepared for an intense exploration of the depths of human experience.

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