RESISTANCE – Review by Carol Cling
Beware of sweeping pronouncements. They can come back to haunt you.
Just ask writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz. The Venezuelan-born filmmaker’s Internet Movie Database listing features the following quote: “I think that 90 percent of the movies that are made are too long and too slow.”
Including his own Resistance, an ambitious, heartfelt and intermittently moving World War II drama that sometimes bogs down in the swamp of its own lofty intentions.
The movie recounts an undeniably fascinating, fact-based story involving, among others, a young man who would become world famous — and another who became forever infamous.
Resistance opens in Munich on Nov. 9, 1938: Kristallnacht, when rioting Nazis torched synagogues, attacked Jewish schools, businesses and homes — and began the killings that culminated in the Holocaust.
It then jumps to 1945, when Gen. George S. Patton (flinty-eyed Ed Harris) addresses assembled U.S. troops, relating “an incredible story” that “makes your sacrifices and your heroism completely worth it.”
We then flash back to 1938 in Strasbourg, France, where a kosher butcher’s son, Marcel Mangel (the perennially boyish Jesse Eisenberg), spends his time indulging his artistic side, clowning in a cabaret — and inducing his father’s ire.
Marcel’s the type who would rather stick his neck out for nobody. But an activist friend (Geza Rohrig) and a comely comrade (a graceful Clemence Poesy) convince him to help when 123 orphans arrive from Nazi-controlled territory.
Naturally, the kids include angelic Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey), whom we met in the movie’s Kristallnacht sequence. Equally inevitably, Marcel’s pantomime talents provide welcome distraction for the traumatized orphans — and invaluable training when it comes time to flee the Nazi menace.
Menace, however, is too weak a word to describe the fanatically barbaric Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighofer). Barbie’s reign of terror in Lyon, France, puts him on a collision course with Marcel — who’s craftily changed the name on his passport from Mangel to Marceau.
Resistance boasts ample material for a gripping, old-school war drama. But Jakubowicz clearly feels compelled to pile on even more — more characters, more gut-wrenching reverses, more heartbreaking historical detail driven home (and then some) via wooden, in-your-face speechifying.
We get the picture, but we’d get it even more powerfully, and profoundly, without all the achingly earnest excess.
Even so, Resistance recounts