Christopher Plummer in Remember: The Uses of Dementia

In Atom Egoyan's new feature, Remember, Christopher Plummer, more commonly seen as a German--think The Sound of Music--plays a Jew, a survivor of Auschwitz. In the assisted living facility where his wife Ruth has just died, a fellow survivor Max (Martin Landau) now asks him to live up to a promise, to avenge the concentration camp blockfuhrer who had murdered their families seventy years ago. So Remember becomes a rather unusual road movie, with Plummer's aged Zev, a man afflicted with dementia, on a revenge mission. Not since Inglorious Basterds, to which this more somber movie should not be compared, have we had such a compelling fantasy plot seeking justice

This week at MoMA, director Atom Egoyan and producer Robert Lantos spoke about the origins of the film. The Hungarian-born Canadian Lantos has Holocaust in his background; moved by the realization that this is the last moment that you can tell a story about survivors in the present time, he wanted to make this movie, bringing in Egoyan, who has made film on the Armenian genocide, to direct. Soon, said Lantos, as the survivors and witnesses die off, movies about them will all be period pieces.

After the screening, we caught up with writer Ben August at dinner at Il Gattopardo. He came up with the story after living in Viet Nam and noting how the untoward history of the war has receded in American memory. It is a wild leap from there to Nazis reaching old age in America, with assumed identities. The actors Jurgen Prochnow and Bruno Ganz, in smaller roles, add a nice touch to some typical Egoyan flourishes. As to Zev's suppressed memory, a debate ensued among viewers of Remember: what would trigger reality for Zev: Nazi memorabilia collected in a Midwest home, the threatening noise of a strip mine in the near distance, or maybe a German shepherd named Eva? In Remember, Christopher Plummer charms as he blunders along, his dementia fascinating as it obfuscates the truth.

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