Movie Review: The Memory Thief
ROUNDUP REVIEW: THE MEMORY THIEF
Tragedy and closure, memory and truth are the subjects of writer/director Gil Kofman's first narrative feature. Married into a family of Holocaust survivors, he has crafted an unusual tale of post-traumatic stress and pain and the ownership thereof.
Lukas (Mark Webber), who works as a California toll collector, seems the portrait of bland pleasantness as he works his shifts and visits his apparently catatonic mother in the hospital. He's cordial to his tranny-in-training co-worker and compassionate to his down-on-their-luck neighbors. He even rescues a stranded dog from the highway, names it Jesus (it's Christmastime when the movie opens) and promises to spring it from the pound in a few weeks.
Then a copy of "Mein Kampf" flies into Lukas' booth from a passing truck. Passively accepting this "gift," he reads and collects until a driver with a number on his arm assails him, offering $10 for the opportunity to burn it. Lukas declines, and the driver, Zvi (Allan Rich), returns to his toll line with his Holocaust Foundation memory tape. The horrors Zvi recounts on the tape trip something in Lukas, and he begins to absorb the experiences and seek out more, eventually applying for work as an interviewer with the Foundation. (When asked if he's Jewish, the gentile Lukas answers, "What do you think?" and gets the job.) Kofman's use of actual survivor testimonies (Lukas hoards tapes, at one point dividing them into those who still believe in God and those who don't) keeps a thread of reality running through his character's ever more unreal world, with its tollbooth mezuza and homemade yellow stars. When his obsession collides with the need of a survivor, Mr. Zweig (played beautifully by Jerry Adler), to leave the past behind, the result is predictable but heartbreaking.
- Maureen M. Hart
Running time: 1:33. Plays Friday-Thursday at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-281-4114. Kofman will be available for a Q&A after screenings at 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday and 3, 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for descriptions of genocide).