Thursday, February 06, 2014
"The Statement": a Nazi hunt, but the more questions of turning on your own people (in Vichy France) are explored
“The Statement” (2003), directed by Norman Jewison, appeared shortly after I returned to the DC area, but I somehow missed it then. It’s a bit in the tradition of the Hitchcock war-related films, and in a rooftop sequence near the end, there’s a touch of “Vertigo”.
As the film opens in black and white, the Nazis raid a home in a village in Vichy France in 1944. Seven men are taken out, stood against a wall, and totaled to disrobe so the guard could see who was circumcised. Then they are shot.
The film then shifts almost 50 years, and Michael Caine plays Pierre Brossard, the former Vichy Nazi sympathizer and executioner. He has been on the run. He recognizes a hit man in the south of France, and on a mountain road encounter out maneuvers and kills the hit man, who had come with a typed statement to lay on his corpse to show that justice had been done.
The murder of the hitman attracts the interest of a local judge (Tilda Swinton). Brossard is on the run, trying to hide behind the Church, which has to come to terms with its own complicity. He meets up with his estranged wife (Charlotte Rampling) and dog. In the end, justice must be done.
The film, based on a “non-fiction” novel by Brian Moore, develops an idea through several moral stages. Why would local French politicians cooperate with their invaders and then attack their own people? Why could the Catholic Church become complicit? One point used to rationalize their actions was that the alternative to Germany would be rule by the Soviet Union under “godless” Communism.
The DVD includes interviews with Michael Caine and Norman Jewison. who describes the process of getting financing for independent film.