RESISTANCE (UK/France/Germany/USA 2019) ***
Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz
(Note: Though set in France, thee is hardly any French spoken.)
The closing credits read that we should not forget the WWII efforts of the RESISTANCE workers. With that, one would find it difficult to fault a well-intentioned film that pays tribute to the Resistance fighters of the Nazi Regime. Still, RESISTANCE is a flawed, if earnest look at too many stories told in a WWII setting.
The first and foremost is the story of the world’s most famous mime of all time, Marcel Marceau. I was unaware that this person served in the Resistance saving thousands of Jewish children. Thanks to writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz for bringing the information to light. Jakubowicz researched his material from many books - on Marceau, on Klaus Barbie, the French Resistance as well as from the testimonies of contemporary survivors.
RESISTANCE is clearly about paying tribute to Marceau and the Resistance fighters who have saved millions of children from those damned Nazis. The story is told from the point of view of Marceau, who is also a talented theatre performer and painter. His painting skills allowed him to forge passports. Marceau falls in love with a local girl, Emma. They get pulled into helping Jewish children. They soon realize that the Nazis will get the children sooner or later and the only option was to move the children out of Occupied France. Unfortunately, the film swings from one premise to another. At one point, it is about Mareau’s entertaining skills, next it is a WWII action flick, then it attempts a biography of Marceau and then a tribute to the resistance fighters. Of those mentioned, the latter stands out and forms the at least satisfying climax of the film.
Where the film works, is when it gets a bit emotional though the sappiness is thankfully held back. The debate between Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) and Emma (Clémence Poésy) is particularly moving. The opening segment where a young girl Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey) watches her parents killed by the Nazi’s and Marceau’s mime performance at the end are worthy of mention.
Eisenberg, the Oscar nominated actor (for THE SOCIAL NETWORK) with the motor-mouth surprisingly speaks much slower in this film, for obvious reasons. Eisenberg speaks English with an odd Jewish slant, as do all the Fresh actors in English. The Germans speak German. Eisenberg could be better in this role but the script does not allow him to excel as in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Eisenberg does ok with the miming, but he is not that good. But who can blame him? No one could ever be better than Marcel Marceau. Ed Harris has a cameo as General George S. Patton but his performance lasts no longer than 5 minutes. Matthias Schweighöfer, who also is one of the film’s co-producers plays Klaus Barbie, the ruthless Gestapo agent who is shown with a nice quiet side with his family.
RESISTANCE feels pretty depressing, especially if watching during the COVID-19 self-isolation/lockdown all over the world. One can feels for the Jewish isolation with regards to fear of an outside incontrollable threat. RESISTANCE opens on iTunes March the 31st, so you will be able to see it.