Movie Review: Plus tard
By Jessica Reaves, Tribune Staff Writer
Set in Paris during the 1987 trial of Gestapo leader Klaus Barbie, "One Day You'll Understand" reminds us that no matter how many stories emerge from the Holocaust, there will always be more. And some are so deeply buried they may never be told.
The most effective movies about horrors such as the Holocaust find ways to personalize the evil, to bring it into a more graspable scale. Israeli director Amos Gitai (whose previous films include "Free Zone" and "Promised Land") manages that by focusing on one family and a piece of its history that has never before been revealed.
Victor (Hippolyte Giradot) has been feverishly working a puzzle: What happened to his maternal grandparents during World War II? He has assembled piles of documents, photographs and letters, but what he really needs are his mother's memories of her parents' lives - the one thing she's not eager to share with him.
His mother, Rivka (played by the incomparable Jeanne Moreau, whose eyebrows evince more emotion than other actors' entire faces) just wants to continue her comfortable life, surrounded by her art collection, her doting son and daughter, and her grandchildren.
As Victor pushes further into the past, his mother is determined to keep him - and his questions - at bay. But Victor's single-mindedness eventually ensnares his unnaturally patient wife (Emanuelle Devos) and their children, who accompany him on his fact-finding missions. Soon he has pieced together a narrative that makes sense factually, if not emotionally.
Director Gitai is known for his spare, lucid style, and his latest work, adapted from an autobiographical novel by Jerome Clement, is no exception. This is not a movie of big, dramatic revelations; in fact, the notionally elusive "truth" is pretty obvious from the movie's outset, which makes Victor's quest less about facts and more about principles. The lack of fireworks, however, doesn't detract from the story's quiet power: "One Day" is a deliberate, sober examination of what people will do to survive - and how they will justify their decisions to future generations.
No MPAA rating; parents advised that though the subject matter is grim, the message is ultimately redemptive. And there's nothing here most older kids (12 and up) haven't already learned in history class.
Opening: Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Running time: 1:29.
Starring: Jeanne Moreau (Rivka); Hippolyte Giradot (Victor); Emmanuelle Devos (Francoise); Dominique Blanc (Tania).
Directed by Amos Gitai; screenplay by Gitai, Dan Franck, Marie Jose Senselme and Jerome Clement; photographed by Caroline Champetier; edited by Isabelle Ingold; music by Louis Sclavis; production design by Manu de Chauvigny; produced by Serge Moati. A Kino release. In French with English subtitles.