ⓘ Remember (2015 film)

                                     

ⓘ Remember (2015 film)

Remember is a 2015 drama-thriller film directed by Atom Egoyan and written by Benjamin August. Starring Christopher Plummer, Bruno Ganz, Jurgen Prochnow, Heinz Lieven, Henry Czerny, Dean Norris and Martin Landau, it was a co-production of Canada and Germany. The plot follows an elderly Holocaust survivor with dementia who sets out to kill a Nazi war criminal, and was inspired by Augusts consideration that there were fewer parts for senior actors in recent years.

After a screening at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, it was theatrically released in Canada on October 23, 2015, in Germany on December 31, 2015, and in the United States by A24 on March 11, 2016. Remember received mostly positive reviews and won a few film festival awards. At the 4th Canadian Screen Awards, August received the Award for Best Original Screenplay and Remember was also nominated for Best Motion Picture.

                                     

1. Plot

In a New York City nursing home, Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Zev Guttman, an 89-year-old dementia patient, is sitting shiva for his wife, Ruth. Another elderly patient and fellow Auschwitz survivor, the incapacitated Max Rosenbaum, reminds Zev of what he promised to do when Ruth died. Max has continually reminded Zev that their families were murdered at the camp by the Blockfuhrer Otto Wallisch, who was believed to have immigrated to North America under the false name Rudy Kurlander. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has located four Rudy Kurlanders, but there is no evidence to arrest any of them. Max reminds Zev that they are the only two who can still recognize Wallisch.

Max convinces Zev to avenge their families by seeking out and killing Wallisch and provides him written instructions to follow. Zev leaves the nursing home in a taxi and boards a train to Cleveland as a Silver Alert is issued for his disappearance. He has moments of confusion but he relies on the letter, which reminds him Ruth is dead, and Max arranges his travel. Max directs Zev to a gun shop, where he buys a Glock, and then to the four men in the U.S. and Canada named Rudy Kurlander, one of whom is the former Blockfuhrer.

Zev confronts the first Rudy Kurlander, a German veteran of World War II, in his home, but this Kurlander proves that he served in the North African Campaign under Erwin Rommel, and was never near Auschwitz. Zev finds the second Rudy Kurlander in a nursing home in Quebec, but he turns out to have been a prisoner in Auschwitz, sent there as a homosexual, which he proves by showing Zev his arm tattoo.

Zev travels to Boise and arrives at the house of the third Rudy Kurlander in Bruneau, Idaho. His son, John, an Idaho state trooper, tells Zev that his father died three months ago. John, who thinks Zev is an old friend of his fathers from the war, shows him his fathers Nazi memorabilia but reveals, after several glasses of whiskey, that his father was only a boy and a cook during the war. When John, who is a neo-Nazi, sees Zevs tattoo and realizes he is Jewish, he becomes enraged and lets loose his German shepherd, Eva. Zev shoots the dog and then John, collapses in exhaustion on Johns bed and leaves the house in the morning.

In Reno, Nevada, Zev falls in the street and is taken to the hospital, which contacts his relieved son, who travels to Reno. After a young girl reads his letter to him, Zev leaves for South Lake Tahoe, California by taxi. He arrives at the home of the fourth Rudy Kurlander and his family, and recognizes him from his voice as the Auschwitz Blockfuhrer. Zevs son, who traced him through the taxi service, arrives to witness Zev threatening to shoot Rudys granddaughter unless he confesses "the truth" to everyone. Rudy admits to his daughter and granddaughter that he was in the SS and killed "many" people. However, he says his real name is Kunibert Sturm - and Zev himself is Otto Wallisch. They were both Blockfuhrers, and after the war, tattooed each other to pose as Jewish survivors. Shocked, Zev shoots Sturm and then, declaring "I remember," fatally shoots himself.

Back in New York, the horrified nursing home residents watch television news reports of the murder/suicide. Max reveals that he recognized Zev as Wallisch when he arrived at the nursing home, and that Wallisch and Sturm killed his family. On Maxs desk, a copy of his letter to Zev is shown along with a picture of Otto Wallisch and a handwritten confession by Max.

                                     

2. Production

Benjamin August, a Jewish writer from New Jersey living in Los Angeles and who had never written a produced film before, told Canadian Jewish News that the concept of Remember "started. with wanting to write a movie starring an older man." He felt elderly actors received few leading parts and that old characters are sympathetic. August sent his screenplay in to Canadian producer Robert Lantos, who envisioned Egoyan as the ideal director.

On April 30, 2014, it was announced that the film would be directed by Egoyan, and would star Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Bruno Ganz, Heinz Lieven, and Jurgen Prochnow. Egoyan said the film came at a time when the last of the Holocaust survivors and criminals were alive, and that trials underway in Germany also made the film timely. Time magazine specifically noted that the trial of Reinhold Hanning was in the news. The director claimed to find Augusts story unconventional and a "high-risk venture". Plummer, who was Egoyans first and only choice for the part of Zev, stated he was also attracted to the project for its unconventional take to a historic subject.

Principal photography began on July 14, 2014, with scenes filmed in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and northern Ontario. For the scene in which Zev kills John Kurlander, Egoyan intended to use a stunt double for Plummer, but Plummer demanded he perform the scene himself. Plummer later told CBC News, "For a moment, I was a little bit pissed off. Because it made me feel suddenly rather old." However, he admitted firing the gun "frightened" him because "they pack the kick of an elephant" and that he was "terrified" of the dog in the scene. Dean Norris said Plummer used this fear in his performance. The film had a $13 million budget.

                                     

3. Release

On May 11, 2015, A24 Films acquired distribution rights to the film. Remember was screened in the main competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival on September 10, 2015, where it received a 10-minute standing ovation, and also screened at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released in Canada on October 23, 2015. The film was released on DirecTV Cinema in the United States on December 17, 2015. The film was originally scheduled to open in the U.S in a limited release on January 15, 2016, but was delayed until February 12. It was then delayed again until March 11, 2016.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $1.184.564 in North America and $2.507.927 in other territories for a worldwide total of $3.692.491. The film made $800.000 in Canada, which was considered disappointing.

                                     

4.1. Reception Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 71% based on 94 reviews, with an average rating of 6.41/10. The sites critical consensus reads, Remember risks wandering into exploitative territory, but its bolstered by some of Egoyans best latter-day directing and a typically stellar performance from Christopher Plummer". Metacritic reports a score of 52 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Jeryl Brunner of Parade called it "one of the most powerful and unique Nazi revenge films to come around in a long time." Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph called the John Kurlander scene "supremely tense" and the film more appealing than Egoyans last films. John Lasser of IGN wrote "One of the things Egoyan does brilliantly here is to not only offer the larger tale but to work in incredibly tense smaller moments as well," and praised Plummer for "an utterly heartbreaking performance." Tashauna Reid of CBC News wrote "Egoyan takes audiences on an intricate, thrilling ride, with a few surprises along the way," called Plummers acting "riveting," and Martin Landau and Dean Norris "equally strong." Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail wrote, Remember is admirable– remarkably, it builds a drama of genuine suspense around the quest for vengeance of a forgetful 90-year-old– but it is also frustratingly limited in ways that cant really be discussed without revealing its surprise ending."

Jake Wilson of The Sydney Morning Herald gave a more mixed review, judging the film to have a "gimmicky script by newcomer Benjamin August that borrows heavily from Christopher Nolans Memento." Michael Rechtshaffen of the Los Angeles Times also wrote Remember benefits mightily from a quietly commanding Christopher Plummer performance that almost makes you forget the wonky plot logic." Richard Roeper panned the film as "bold but often ludicrous." Guy Lodge of Variety also disapproved, writing the film "puts a creditably sincere spin on material that is silly at best. At worst, tyro writer Benjamin Augusts screenplay is a crass attempt to fashion a Memento -style puzzle narrative from post-Holocaust trauma."

In January 2017, The A.V. Club posted an analysis of the scene where Zev meets the character John Kurlander. The review noted some surface-level similarities between Norris work as John and his role as Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad, but its main focus was on how events in 2016 and growing vocalization of white supremacists served to make the scene much more disturbing and realistic than it felt when the film premiered in 2015.