One Day You'll Understand Review

9th Jameson Belfast Film Festival review

The title of Amos Gitai’s look back at the fate of the Jewish population of Paris and France during the Nazi occupation of the country during WWII is, like the film itself, admirably direct but - perhaps intentionally – hopelessly optimistic. The most one can hope is that with enough time and distance somehow and on some level some sense can be made of how those horrific events were allowed to happen. If, and just if, we think hard enough about it, examine all the testimony and documents, and if the French government accept responsibility for their part in what happened, an event too long kept hidden, secret, under a pact of silence, and make some kind of recompense. Before there is forgiveness, there must be understanding. Or perhaps the title One Day You’ll Understand (Plus tard tu comprendras) could ambiguously refer to the understanding the reasons why some people, particularly those how lived through the period of terror, would rather not talk about it.


Trying to find a path towards understanding is therefore a complex one, but one that French lawyer Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) feels compelled to unravel. The year is 1987 and with the trial of Klaus Barbie making the headlines, the subject has reopened many old wounds. Victor himself has just discovered a document signed by his father explicitly professing their Aryan status, despite being married to a Jewish wife. Victor’s attempts however to get his mother Rivka (Jeanne Moreau) to explain his father’s actions are met with the same evasive and vague responses that are always received when enquiries are made into the story of his maternal grandparents, the Russian-Jewish Gornick side of the family, who fled Paris for the safety of a remote country village, but ended up being deported to Auschwitz.

Even though he has been brought up a Catholic, and even though the strain of trying to piece together what happened almost causes him a breakdown, Victor knows that it’s too important a thing to let it remain in the past. That’s because it’s not just the past that concerns Victor, but the future is also a concern since he is aware that his own children no nothing of their roots and know little about what happened during the war. With each passing year and with a shroud of silence and denial lying over that period, Victor knows that answers must be sought out now or never.


The same is true of the need of filmmakers to address the subject, and up to now, there’s been little of that from French filmmakers themselves, and when it has been recently addressed - in Rachid Bouchareb’s Days Of Glory (Indigènes), in Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Bon Voyage or in Claude Miller’s A Secret - it’s been unsatisfactorily handled in the medium of a genre war movie, farce or love story. There have been more serious attempts to address the question in modern French literature, and it’s as an adaptation then of Jérôme Clément’s autobiographical book Plus tard tu comprendras that it falls to not a French but an Israeli director, albeit one now working primarily in France, to tackle those serious questions.

Gitai then directs this story with directness and simplicity, the drama of the period being allowed to speak for itself, given real force and meaning through the performances of an outstanding cast that includes Emmanuelle Devos and Dominique Blanc in secondary roles. As for the main roles, Hippolyte Girardot is intense and driven without ever being hysterical, while Jeanne Moreau, now 80 years old, demonstrates what a magnificent actress she still is, carrying the weight of her character’s past with dignity and, as perhaps the only person who can truly understand the past in as much as it can be understood, her Rivka passes on the memory in the only way she can.

Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 20:19:36

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