Canadian writer-director Jeremy Podeswa’s films have a haunting, lyrical quality to them. In Fugitive Pieces, his adaptation of Anne Michaels’ 1996 award-winning best-selling novel, he’s made a stunningly handsome film that tells the story of writer Jakob Beer, a man whose life and memory is forever imprinted with his childhood experiences in Poland during World War II. Saved from the Nazis by a benevolent Greek archaeologist Athos (Rade Sherbedgia), he spends a great deal of his later life in both Greece and Toronto dealing with the loss he endured as a boy. Sherbedgia won the Best Actor Award in 2007 at the Rome International Film Festival for his role in Fugitive Pieces. The Olivier and Tony Award-winning British actor Stephen Dillane brilliantly portrays Jakob as an adult and the excellent Robbie Kay does so as a child.
It’s part Holocaust film, part male weepy, part coming-of-age/generational divide/romantic drama that is woven seamlessly together, blending these elements with a sure and steady pace. Podeswa gives the actors room to breathe, and at times you feel like you’re not watching a scripted work but events that are unfolding before you, much like in his earlier film The Five Senses, and never in an awkward or obviously improvisational manner. I believe that some audiences will find the pacing too slow for their taste. For me it was close to perfection.
Among the other excellent actors in the cast are: Rosamund Pike (as Jakob’s first wife); one of Israel’s leading actresses Ayelet Zurer (as Michaela, a later love in his life); and Ed Stoppard (as his neighbor’s bookish son Ben, who introduces Jakob to Michaela). Ed, it should be noted, is the son of playwright Tom Stoppard.
Fugitive Pieces is a complex, poetic, and psychologically charged story, exquisitely shot by Gregory Middleton and expertly edited by Wiebke Von Carolsfeld, both of whom worked with Podeswa on the aforementioned The Five Senses. It’s a film to savor and remember.