Holocaust Memories Never Die, but Nazis Do

Holocaust Memories Never Die, but Nazis Do

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival takes on a real Hollywood feel opening night with “Remember,” which stars two Academy Award winners under the direction of an Oscar nominee.

The film premiered in the fall at two of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, Toronto and Venice, and is scheduled for a U.S. theatrical release Feb. 12, 2½ weeks after the Jewish Film Festival gives the movie its local debut Jan. 26 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Martin Laundau (left) and Christopher Plummer star in "Remember."
Martin Laundau (left) and Christopher Plummer star in “Remember.”

With Christopher Plummer (winner of a supporting actor Oscar in 2012 for “Beginners”) and Martin Landau (supporting actor Oscar in 1994 for “Ed Wood”) in front of the cameras and Atom Egoyan (nominated for directing and screenwriting Oscars for 1997’s “The Sweet Hereafter”) behind them, “Remember” has the star power to take the big opening-night stage.

It also has the right kind of story, establishing a few festival plot lines involving aging Holocaust survivors, hidden Nazis and the ways subsequent generations handle what their fathers did in World War II.

Plummer plays Zev Gutman, an Auschwitz survivor suffering from dementia so that each time he falls asleep, he loses his short-term memory, including the recent death of his wife. He doesn’t look like a candidate to go on a manhunt or commit a revenge killing, but that’s exactly the mission given to him by a fellow survivor and resident of a New York nursing home.

That Auschwitz survivor, Max Rosenbaum (Landau), writes a letter reminding Zev of his recent past and providing step-by-step instructions of how to seek out the four German immigrants in Canada and the United States who could be the Nazi prison guard responsible for killing both of their families.

Zev is hardly the image of a great Nazi-hunter; he at times seems to be little more than a puppet whose strings are being pulled by his friend Max. But as you’d expect, Plummer plays the part perfectly, including the bewilderment every time he wakes up in a strange place without his wife and the mix of fear and determination each time he confronts a candidate for the missing Nazi.

As he has done for decades, Landau makes the most of limited screen time. It’s unfortunate he and Plummer don’t have more scenes together, but Plummer’s extended scene with the adult son (played by Dean Norris from “Breaking Bad”) of one of his suspects is a strong substitute.

Norris’ character admires his late father’s Nazi past but wants to learn more about his life. At the same time, while Zev searches for the Nazi guard after walking away from his nursing home, his son searches for Zev.

The quests converge at an isolated house in a scene reminiscent in location and suspense of the climax of another Landau film, “North by Northwest.”

“Remember” is not of the same caliber as that Alfred Hitchcock classic, but it has enough twists to reward viewers who let the top-notch acting carry them away and don’t try to see the surprises coming.

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