| art & architecture | books & cds | dance
| destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
The Statement is a well-intentioned film
with a pronounced political slant, a fugitive-on-the-run story lending a modicum of
suspense, and a cast that includes a handful of the best actors on the screen today. Yet
the entire affair falls flat due to skimpy characterizations for all but the central
character and dialogue of the kind of cliched banality that frequently induces pained
winces. The central character is one Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine), a
deeply religious French Catholic who was a member of a Vichy government military force
created to serve the Nazi occupation. Brossard participated in a 1944 execution of seven
Jews. While some involved in the Vichy collaboration were brought to justice after the
war, Brossard managed to slip between the cracks, living an anonymous life, sheltered and
financially supported by right-wing elements of the Catholic church, in particular a group
called the Chevalier du Ste. Marie.
Armed with a new law defining crimes against humanity, the authorities
are after Brossard again, a task specifically charged to Judge Anne Marie Livi (Tilda
Swinton). Finding the local police uncooperative, Livi calls in the military for
assistance and is assigned Colonel Roux (Jeremy Northam). They're nicely mismatched--she a
true believer in her case, impatient, impetuous; he a cool professional who accepts his
role as subordinate to her with wry patience. There's one moment of dialogue which
broaches the idea of romance between them, but that it doesn't happen comes as no
surprise; there's not enough screen chemistry between them to get a match lit.
In contrast, a short episode when Brossard takes shelter with his
estranged wife, played by Charlotte Rampling (Under the Sand, Swimming Pool), simmers with
possibilities; these two pros manage to suggest complications and emotional undertones
that the screenwriter (Ronald Harwood) never imagined. Unfortunately, Brossard is on the
run and Caine and Rampling don't get much time together on screen.
While Livi and Roux (great name for a law firm) are hunting down
Brossard, he is more immediately and more seriously threatened by anonymous assassins,
said to be hired by a vigilante Jewish group. And Livi is put under major pressure by a
minister of the government (Alan Bates) to give up the case or suffer dire consequences.
It's a little odd to have Brossard as the central figure of the film,
since, essentially, he was one of the foot soldiers in the moral (and real) warfare with
which the film is concerned. Haunted by his conscience, he claims to be repentant; his
desperation for absolution is rooted in his profoundly traditional Catholic belief. But he
remains so wily a fugitive and so quick on the trigger himself that the script undermines
any sense of moral complication in him. He's a genuinely unlikable central character
around whom to build a film. There's irony in the
contrast of the amoral, but religious Brossard with the lapsed Catholic, but principled
Roux, but since Roux is never developed as a full-fledged character, it doesn't resonate
with any depth.
Even at the purely narrative level, the film steps on its own toe in
its opening statement which has an obvious alert to the main red herring that is supposed
to generate some suspense.
The Statement is dedicated to the 77,000 French Jews who
perished under the German occupation and the Vichy regime. Surely they deserve something
- Arthur Lazere