Save or Take Lives, aka thoughts on “Resistance” (UK/France/USA, 2 hours)

Scene from Resistance

Questions are the most powerful weapons. I believe most people would opt to save lives if asked whether you would want to kill someone or save someone. If this dichotomy asked from a place of authenticity, i.e. the questioner proved over and over that he saves lives the answer might be even more o the saving lives. Even if the person you would feel killing is someone who killed someone close to you. Revenge begets revenge, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword” all these expressions are stuck in the language of violence. However if you are prompted to chose life you would, wouldn’t you?

This, the conversation where these choices are presented and taken, creates the strongest emotional echoes in “Resistance”, the new movie about Marcel Marceau (played by Jesse Eisenberg), the famous “French” mime life saving activities during World War II. He is French, but I had put the in quotation mark, because his born identity has at least three layers: he was born into a Jewish family and his parents are Polish and Ukrainian descent. So he is born as a Jew, a Pole and a Frenchmen. Who he became is due to his self-determination. Although even that feels like he has little control over: in another powerful scene in the he makes it clear that making art is something his body commands him to do; he can not not do it.

You know who else has (at least a) triple identity? The film’s director Jonathan Jakubowicz. He is also of Polish and Jewish origin, but he is Venezuelan. Because of the subject of his first, critically acclaimed movie, Secuestro Express (Express Kidnapping), he was forced to leave his homeland. The parallels between his personal background and the subject of the movie surely made him more attuned to it. According to this Forbes article he was already set out to make a more optimistic Holocaust movie, when he found Marceu’s life story. He worked on the story and screenplay together with Georges Loinger, Marceu’s cousin whose character also appears in the movie. It is amazing that Losinger was 106 years old when they met and they researched the story together. Probably close till Losinger’s death in 2018, at the age of 108. 

A prominent part of the multiple facets my identities is the Hungarian part, so I cannot leave unsaid that Georges is played by Géza Röhrig, a fellow Hungarian, who rose to fame with the Oscar winning “Son of Saul“. Mila is also played by a Hungarian ( & Slovak) actress, Vica Kerekes. While I am at it might as well clear up a personal confusion. If you were a teenager in the 1980’s you must have seen the French teen movie La Boum (The Party) and probably can even hum the main song’s melody. The girl in that movie was payed by Sophie Marceau. I always thought she is related to Marcel Marceau.  After watching resistance I had to test this assumption of mine and turned out I was wrong They are not related in any way, never even met. 

Another thing I became curious about how the daughter of Klaus Barbie, the infamous Gestapo butcher, related to the arts in her adult life. I won’t spoil now how this question came up, you will know once you saw the movie. It matters to me because I believe in the power of art and enjoy a wide variety of them. (Sidenote: I also believe that right now when a large portion of the humanity is staying at home the arts, including books, movies and music is what makes the global quarantine more bearable for a lot of us. Art matters and saves lives. Support the artists who you like as they are probably having a hard time now.) So what I found that Barbie’s only surviving child, his daughter ended up being a bookseller and married to a teacher, and lived in an Austrian ski resort in 1983. So after all she had some affinities for liberal arts. 

Resistance is a beautifully produced, heartwarming movie with a clear message, a fantastic hero, a captivating story, several memorable scenes and competent acting. However its directions lacks the dynamism and its acting lacks the energy to make it a truly remarkable movie. 

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