One Day You'll Understand
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: TORONTO AND BERLIN FILM FESTIVALS
From acclaimed Israeli director Amos Gitaï (Kadosh, Free Zone), One Day You ll Understand is a meditation on memory, identity, and the reconciliation that follows a French businessman s growing obsession with the secrets of his family s past. Suffused with a quiet glow of sympathy and enlightenment (The New York Times), the film is a diligently understated exploration of the legacy of anti-Semitism (Time Out New York). As the 1987 trial of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie unfolds on television, Victor Bastien (Hippolyte Girardot -- Lady Chatterley) reviews old family documents and finds a distressing Aryan declaration authored by his late father, a discovery that throws Victor s conception of his family s history into darkness. His mother, Rivka (legendary actress Jeanne Moreau -- Jules and Jim, Viva Maria!), keeps a stubborn silence about the past, while Tania (Dominique Blanc), his sister, defends their father s declaration. At the same time, Victor s wife (Emmanuelle Devos -- Kings and Queen) and children grow concerned about his increasing distraction. Burning with the need to unearth the truth, Victor takes his family to the tiny village where Rivka s parents were forced to hide during the war. Poignant and ultimately optimistic, One Day You ll Understand offers a compelling portrait of a family s confrontation with the wounds of the past and their hopes for a better future.
Suffused with a quiet glow of sympathy and enlightenment... Jeanne Moreau gives a master class in how to be regal without vanity. --A.O. Scott, THE NEW YORK TIMES
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In two long (and almost non-verbal) opening scenes, middle-aged Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) pores over a Shoah monument while his elderly mother, Rivka (Jeanne Moreau,* Jules et Jim*), putters around her apartment. She's listening vaguely to radio-broadcast testimony during the 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo officer who, during the war, had butchered thousands of Jews.
Gitai paces the film deliberately, with a camera that skulks behind walls and lingers on the barriers (counters, desks, tables) that separate people. Guarded by their physical surroundings, parents keep their emotional distance, even from their own children. Moreau's character, gaunt with age, diverts conversations from the past: She'll happily talk about food, the weather, antiques -- anything but what happened to her Russian Jewish parents on a cold night in 1944.
Gitai's previous films, often about Israeli history, are known for their slow pacing, which arguably allows viewers time to ruminate about their meaning. Yet sometimes the languor in *One Day* seems aimless, as when a family breakfast scene overstays its welcome while dad's deciding whether or not to investigate his grandparents' past.
But the extended takes have their payoffs, too. Family arguments gain intensity from being shot in extreme close-up. Steadicam shots stay tight on Victor, increasing the suspense as he mounts the stairs in the hotel where his grandparents were arrested. And Gitai lingers on the tiny links between horrific past and questioning present: This wallpaper, the gravel out on the walkway, are the same wallpaper and gravel that his grandparents touched on the most awful night of their lives.
In a scene at a synagogue, Rivka reveals the bare minimum about her past -- not to her son, but to her grandchildren. And just like that -- with her glistening eyes rising up to the ceiling, listening to the rabbi's chant, her granddaughter's head resting on her shoulder -- Rivka will say no more. The past may be important, but it's seldom resolved.
When Victor brings up the subject, Rivka refuses to be drawn in, piquing Victor's curiosity about his parents' background especially of the war years. Victor also finds documents that compel him to discover the past - one such document is an attestation by Victor's father that he is an Aryan, another showing evidence that Victor's sister Tania was baptized a Catholic (one which saved her from the fate suffered by most Jews in France at the time). All of these revelations lead Victor to the French hamlet where Rivka's parents hid during the war and their ultimate fate. The movie then shifts back to the 80s where Rivka finally decides to reveal her family history.
As someone who has been an educator and taught Holocaust history, I have watched numerous Holocaust-themed dramas. I'm always amazed at the new insights provided by these dramas, though all deal with the Holocaust. Here, the dynamics of a mother-son relationship are credibly dealt with, as is the son's search for his family's past. I did however find the transitions from past to present to be rather jarring, and some scenes seem overly long. Jeanne Moreau's compelling performance however more than makes up for any technical flaws in the production. I would also recommend the movie Rosenstrasse.
that the film is in French prevents it from completely descending into bathos. The acting of the great Jeanne
Moreau is not enough to save this film from its ham-handed director. If one expects the worst of Israeli films,
you will not be disappointed. This is a terribly dreadful film.