French actor Marcel Marceau is best known as the world’s greatest mime artist. His character Bip continues to symbolise mime and clowning. Yet a lesser known fact about Marceau is that he was Jewish-the family having changed their name during the Nazi occupation of France. Marceau and his brother worked for the French Resistance, helping hundreds of Jewish children to safety in Switzerland.
Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz has written and directed Resistance, in an effort to explore this period of Marceau’s life.
This is a noble and artistically interesting choice, if nothing else.
From the opening scene there is sense of unreality about the script. We see a young Jewish girl in the late 30s in Germany, being put to bed by both parents. Her payot-wearing Orthodox father is reading her a story. Sweet thought this scene is, a father in the late 30s, particularly one from a highly patriarchal culture, would not be that involved with his children: particularly a daughter. When the parents are then dragged outside and killed by Nazis, it becomes clear that this feature is going to lack sophistication and subtlety.
In the lead role, Jesse Eisenberg does his best. He does look somewhat like a young Marceau, but his performance is too clownish. This could have been a directorial decision to blend Marceau’s on-stage character with the real person. It smacks of laziness in the writing, and doesn’t quite work. Also, Eisenberg is simply not a good enough mime. He brings a charm to the role, but no gravitas.
French actor Clemence Poesy (Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter films) is better cast as Emma, the young woman he is in love with, and through whom he begins his resistance work. The casting in general is very mixed, including a star-turn by Ed Harris as Patton.
Chilean cinematographer M. I. Littin-Menz produces some beautiful work, and this film is certainly visually satisfying, backed up with excellent production design by Tomas Voth.
At two hours long, Resistance asks a lot of the viewer. A fascinating story, it just doesn’t quite work as well as it should. Perhaps the fact that there are over twenty producers, might have added to the resulting mess.
However, much can be learned from this work, both about the French Resistance, and about the fascinating Marcel Marceau. And Eisenberg fans will certainly see a different side of him.
Resistance is currently available to rent from the Foxtel Store, and will be released in cinemas in late June.