Combustible Celluloid
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With: Stephen Dillane, Rade Serbedzija, Rosamund Pike, Ayelet Zurer, Robbie Kay, Ed Stoppard, Rachelle Lefevre, Nina Dobrev, Themis Bazaka, Diego Matamoros, Sarah Orenstein, Larissa Laskin, Giorgos Karamihos, Danai Skiadi
Written by: Jeremy Podeswa, based on a novel by Anne Michaels
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Language: English, Greek, Yiddish & German, with English subtitles
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/06/2007

Fugitive Pieces (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Piece' of Ache

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The titles for Fugitive Pieces don't come until the end of the film, but long before that, without knowing anything about it, I could tell that it was based on a book. It has that very polite, based-on-a-book decorum, wherein the filmmakers try to please the author and the book's fans as well as pandering to any newcomers who might pick up the book after seeing the film. Not once does writer/director Jeremy Podeswa cut loose with anything that he might wish to say, to express anything weighing on his soul. It's also a Holocaust film, so Podeswa walks that tightrope as well, paying respectful reverence to the real event, while tentatively testing new ways to get across the horror of what happened, and perhaps trying to impress award committees. Within this twisty balancing act the film can barely breathe, much less move. Podeswa tries to make up for it by casting an array of astonishingly beautiful people, actors with pouty lips and soulful eyes and actresses with freckled noses and cascading hair. The story flashes back and forth between Jakob as a child (Robbie Kay) and Jakob as an adult (Stephen Dillane). As a child, he loses his family and his beloved sister Bella (Nina Dobrev) to the Nazis, and is rescued by architect and scholar Athos (Rade Serbedzija). Over the years, he hides, learns English and Greek and begins to write, while atrocities happen all around him. When he grows up, he writes a book about what happened. His obsession drives away his wife Alex (Rosamund Pike) but he eventually falls in love again, with Michaela (Ayelet Zurer). There's a bizarre subplot, but Podeswa has no idea how to handle it, so he sidesteps it. Jakob's neighbor has a young son who idolizes Jakob, but there's a hint of trouble at home. Abuse? Molestation? The film never says, though we're supposed to side with the young man, Ben (Ed Stoppard), against his father. The only clue is that the father gets mad when Ben throws a half-eaten apple in the trash. Podeswa seems to favor a hand-held camera for all this, which jiggles ever so slightly in each shot. On the plus side, the performances are fine, especially the great character actor Serbedzija as well as Dillane, who delivers a nicely subtle performance, almost as if constantly whispering. Fugitive Pieces

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