Directed by Atom Egoyan
Country: Canada / Germany
I went to watch “Remember” with some reservations. All because the Canadian filmmaker of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan, hasn’t been so inspired in the last few years, presenting trifles such as “Chloe”, “Devil’s Knot”, and “The Captive”. However, his career started incredibly encouraging, and films like “Family Viewing”, “Speaking Parts”, “The Adjuster”, “Calendar”, “Exotica”, and “The Sweet Hereafter”, are no less than fundamental, forming the solid foundations of his individual filmmaking style.
In “Remember”, Mr. Egoyan redeems himself from the recent frivolous creations and, together with the veteran actor, Christopher Plummer ("The Sound of Music", "Waterloo"), brings into the world an arresting, fairly balanced, and constantly tense drama, which is a subtly relentless revenge tale.
Mr. Plummer is terrific as Zev Gutman, a 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor who lives in a retirement home and struggles with a galloping dementia. Whenever he awakes from his superficial yet recurrent sleep, so characteristic of the old age, the only thing he remembers is his wife Ruth, who had passed away a week before. Invariably, a solace comes from his closest friend, Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau), another former captive who managed to escape with life from Auschwitz. Max persuades Zev to make a risky, solitary trip to find and kill the former Nazi guard, Rudy Kurlander, the man responsible for the death of his family. Considering that the man’s memory is deteriorating, this is a problematic task that gets even harder when he realizes that there are several Germans called Rudy Kurlander living in the US. Only the right one must die and Zev thinks of himself as the right executioner, as he had promised to his friend.
Now you are probably asking how the hell he manages to remember about the details of an almost unfeasible mission? The answer is: through a handwritten letter, provided by Max, which contains all the important details he needs to know about himself and thorough instructions to successfully accomplish the task.
The hazardous trip comprehends distinct encounters with different Kurlanders. The first one confesses he always agreed with Hitler and is still proud to be a Nazi, but only served his country in the North of Africa; the second encounter was unexpectedly emotional; the third was a terrifying experience; and the ultimate encounter brings a decisive twist to a story, written by the newcomer Benjamin August, that empowers the overall appreciation of the film.
Without reinventing the wheel, Mr. Egoyan shows a commendable confidence that reverberates in the performances, bestowing the decorous benefits to make the film interesting. Even dealing with a few narrative gaps, he sets up the adequate nail-biting tones to spare us from boredom.