Emotional Arithmetic Paolo Barzman

Emotional Arithmetic Paolo Barzman
As an exploration of the persistence of memory in relation to traumatic events that shape and define ideological constructs, juxtaposed with the necessary yet borderline impossible need to forget and move on, Emotional Arithmetic prospers despite not being particularly interesting to watch and yet another Holocaust movie. The cast delivers the goods — in particular Sarandon and Plummer — and the deliberately paced direction, as well as the appropriate autumn (of life) visuals, reflects the inquisitive nature of the text, but an inability to connect with an overlying human emotional element external to the issues of the film, regardless of its best efforts, keeps accessibility to a wider audience at a minimum. Some dramatic parallels and mirroring to a broader human struggle could have helped with this, rather than the decision to dote on the residual effects that dwelling on the past has on the present. The film follows Melanie (Susan Sarandon) — a survivor of the Drancy "transit camp” where Jews were detained by the Vichy government prior to being shipped off to Auschwitz — in her modern medicated married life to a somewhat embittered professor (Christopher Plummer). After hearing from noted author and fellow Drancy detainee Jakob (Max Von Sydow), Melanie is reunited with this ghost from her past, as well as her childhood crush Christopher (Gabriel Byrne), an Irish man who as a child was placed in the camp by error. The reunion inevitably reopens old wounds and forces all involved to examine their means of coping with past horrors while trying to exist in the present without disrespecting the importance of historical memory. The DVD features include a "behind the scenes” featurette that explores the usual "meanings” and "significance” but almost seems thrown together, lacking an understanding of narrative flow. Equally awkward are the series of amateur interviews conducted with each cast member, which are interesting mainly due to the fact that the actors are shown during sound check — and in the case of Sarandon, in hair and makeup — prior to their awareness of being on film. As a result, Gabriel Byrne, Christopher Plummer and Susan Sarandon’s mild annoyance with the interviewer are observable. Watching their individual transitions into professional, polite actors is far more interesting than what was likely intended. (Seville)