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17 December 2008

Movie: One Day You'll Understand

Sometimes you need distance, in time or emotion, to really understand things, and even then, we may not be able to bridge the gap of generation and era.

Can we ever understand what it's like to be at war, if we haven't gone there? Can we ever understand what it's like to have one's whole country turn against one or one's religion? These are the questions asked by the French language, Plus Tard, Tu Comprendras or One Day You'll Understand.

We're not immediately clear on the connection between the Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie, and Victor (Hippolyte Girardot), a well-to-do businessman. Barbie's trial plays in the background; he was the head of the Gestapo in Lyon and as such, oversaw the deportation of thousands of French Jews to the death camps.

Then we meet Rivka, Victor's mother (Jeanne Moreau), now widowed and unable to speak about the past beyond Victor's birth. She is comfortable with her life, a quiet, comfortable world of grandchildren and memories in an elegant apartment filled with keepsakes. She has the life many women dream hope for when they grow old.

Victor is not comfortable with his life. He was born after the war. As with most children, even adult ones, not knowing and being refused answers only makes Victor want to know more.

Victor begins to research his past and his desire to learn about his father and grandparents begins to worry his wife, Françoise (Emmanuelle Devos), but this doesn't stop Victor. Victor's father signed a document attesting to his Aryan identity and turning away from his Jewish roots. He and his sister were raised Catholic.

Amos Gitai's 2008 movie is based on Jérôme Clément's novel, Plus Tard, Tu Comprendras. The movie has no great revelations or sense of tragedy. It is not as poignant as the Louis Malle 1987 Au Revoir Les Enfants.

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