Fugitive Pieces: Out of the Holocaust, and into the fugue of memory

In this English-language Canadian drama, based on the award-winning novel by poet Anne Michaels, Jakob, a young Polish Jew, watches the Nazis slaughter his family while he hides in a cupboard. He's rescued by Athos (Rade Serbedzija), a Greek archaeologist, who smuggles the boy back to Greece and, after the war's end, brings his now-adopted son to Canada. Fugitive Pieces tracks Jakob back and forth through the decades as the boy emerges from his fearful silence, and as the man (now Stephen Dillane) struggles against his memories. The film looks fantastic, conveying the rough knit of Jakob's tatty, soiled sweater and the smell of the spray evaporating off the Aegean rocks. But its vividness is smudged by several soap-opera performances and by the eagerness to amp up the sentimentality, thanks to director Jeremy Podeswa. A movie with English Patient aspirations and Lifetime-movie outcomes, Fugitive Pieces only succeeds in capturing the emotional force of the original novel when Jakob reads from his journals and books—in short, reciting Michaels' undiluted words.

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