Published Sep 04, 2008Reliant on single tracking shots and claustrophobic interiors specifically to reinforce underlying anxieties that stem from external forces and evils and passive-aggressive suggestions, Amos Gitais translation of Jerome Clements novel of a man trying to make sense of his Jewish parents declarations in wartime has the appropriate gravitas. However, it lacks the emotional complexity it strives for and has nothing particularly cinematic about it. Everything in Plus Tard, outside of a WWII flashback, feels and looks like a filmed stage play.
After fighting with his sister Tania (Dominque Blanc) about their parents rationale behind declaring Aryan status during wartime, Victor Bastien (Hippolyte Girardot) goes on a fact-finding mission to re-examine the past. Finding factual resistance from his reclusive mother Rivka (Jeanne Moreau), he takes his wife Francoise (Emmanuelle Devos) and two children to the French village where his maternal grandparents hid during the war.
A thematic trajectory of protecting ones children from harsh truths are revealed through lies that Victor tells his own children about his research, while he simultaneously questions his own mothers avoidance of the subject. Other parallels become evident through the televised trial of Klaus Barbie and Francoises gentle manipulation of Rivka, who learns the importance of preserving historical memory regardless of the weight it puts on the shoulders of a younger generation. Anxieties about history repeating itself, as well as the necessity of tolerance, are at the forefront of these characters struggles.
While the horrors of irrational hate swooping in and destroying innocent lives are effectively communicated, interactivity and modern day relationships between the three generations of family are never examined with enough intricacy to make the audience care about them. They exist only as perfectly affable ciphers that explore the past and reiterate the importance of the persistence of memory. (Seville)