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New Film ‘Remember’ Is Unforgettable

Director Atom Egoyan delivers elegant, unexpected thriller about Holocaust

Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer star as two elderly Jewish men who plot...

Credit: A24

Above: Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer star as two elderly Jewish men who plot revenge on a former Nazi in Aton Egoyan's new film, "Remember."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Remember."


Companion viewing

"The Sweet Hereafter" (1997)

"Ararat" (2002)

"Away From Her" (2006)

"Vengeance" (2009)

The film "Remember" closed the San Diego Jewish Film Festival in February. Now it returns for a limited run at The Lot in La Jolla starting April 1.

With films such as "The Sweet Hereafter," "Adoration" and "Ararat," filmmaker Atom Egoyan reveals an obsession with themes about history and how we remember the past.

His new film, "Remember," casts Christopher Plummer as Zev Guttman, a Holocaust survivor with dementia. Guttman has just lost his wife and lives at a rest home. Also at the rest home is Max Rosenbaum (played by Martin Landau), a fellow Auschwitz survivor. Rosenbaum gives Guttman a letter that sends him on a mission of revenge to track down one of the Nazis responsible for the death of their family members.

The dementia requires that Guttman constantly be reminded of his task and return to his letter for details of his mission. This is also Egoyan’s way of reminding us of a past history that must never be forgotten. As the people who survived the Holocaust get older and fewer remain to tell their stories, Egoyan suggests that we might be letting that chapter of history grow less vivid.

But Egoyan also wants to spin an elegant and tense thriller that rivets us and makes us see that even a history that we think we know may have some new layers. He serves up a final twist that makes us rethink all that came before.

"Remember" boasts powerful performances from both Plummer and Landau. Plummer shows us how Guttman must struggle each day to remember his task and when finally faced with the moment of revenge, he reveals how cruel and painful recovered memory can be.

Egoyan, always a meticulous director, never likes to reveal his hand too early to the audience. So he sets us off on a journey and then surprises us with the final destination. His film is well crafted and hooks us from the start with the clever premise of giving someone with dementia the task of seeking revenge. This pairs nicely with Johnnie To's "Vengeance," in which a man hires a trio of hit men to get revenge on the mobsters who killed his family. Only problem is he has a bullet in his head and his memory eventually fades to the point he can no longer remember why he hired the men.

"Remember" (rated R for a sequence of violence and language) is a superb example of Egoyan at his best and most polished.

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