Sunday, March 20, 2016

Film Review: Remember (2015)

Copyright: A24
The best way to describe Remember is to call it nauseating in a really mellow way. Atom Egoyan, its director, works really well with bland locations, where the depth of space is measured in meters that are in their single digits. Virtually all of the film, except its finale, takes place in rooms, basements, run-down houses and other places that are both enclosing and claustrophobic.

Here, in these spaces from where there is no room to escape, a simple plot unravels. Zev Guttman, played by Christopher Plummer, is a Jewish man gripped by late-stage Alzheimer’s, who mourns the death of his wife in their nursing home residence. But, Zev is soon reminded by Max, one of his friends about a promise he made: as a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, he will find an SS officer who stole the identity of a killed camp prisoner and immigrated to the US after the war. 

With his destroyed memory which practically restarts every time he falls asleep, Zev leaves the nursing home with a list of four names, knowing that one of them is the man who murdered his family in Auschwitz. On this journey, Egoyan works as if he is creating a senior version of Memento. Zev forgets and is easily disoriented, but his drive for justice keeps him pushing on, using a letter from his friend to guide him once he forgets everything.

The toned-down nature of Remember is employed to show the world which moved on and almost forgot about the unspeakable horror that took place behind the Nazi barbed wire. However, the oldest ones among us still remember vividly the places where hell became a physical, tangible thing and this movie delves head on into that feeling. Egoyan does not use any gimmick to push his point home: there are no flashback scenes, no grizzly stories about the events that took place in the barracks or the killing rooms. Instead, it is the state of Zev that tells the story of suffering and dismay right here and now, in the pleasant environment of the modern United States.

Plummer is excellent and very visceral in the presentation of his character, spurred on by the always great Martin Landau as Max. Here, the audience sees Zev who has almost lost everything stored in his mind while his body follows suit. But, in spite of this, his small hand purse holds a Glock and he is still, as his name says in Hebrew, a lion. And lions hunt, even when they are on their deathbed.

Remember is a film about growing old but not forgetting the things that matter, especially those that cannot be forgotten.