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The dead walk among the living

  • 20 November 2008
Fugitive Pieces: 106 minutes. Rated: MA 15+. Director: Jeremy Podeswa. Starring: Robbie Kaye/Stephen Dillane, Rade Sherbedgia, Rosamund Pike, website There are no soothing words to truly quieten deep pain, but Fugitive Pieces shows redemption is a possibility, even in the face of undying memories. We first meet Jakob Beer (Robbie Kaye) when the young Polish Jew bears mute witness to the murder of his parents and the abduction of his beloved big sister, Bella (Nina Dobrev), by Hitler's minions. A veritable babe in the woods, Jakob is rescued by a Greek archaeologist, Athos (Rade Sherbedgia), who secretes the child in a sprawling mountain villa on his Ionian island home. Living in fear until the liberation of Greece, Athos and Jakob duly immigrate to Toronto, Canada, to continue lives spent balancing grief's deficit with the coinage of hope. There, bereaved yet again by Athos' death, the grown man Jakob (Stephen Millane) falls in and out of love with the lion-hearted Alex (Rosamund Pike) and her 'shameless vitality'. His relationship, sadly, is poisoned by the same well that nurtures his blossoming as a writer and witness to the Holocaust. Fugitive Pieces is a well-rendered description of Jakob's struggle to press the shards of his life back into one less than seamless whole. Athos' wisest of wise old Greek sayings, 'light a candle before night overtakes you', is embodied in Jakob's life work. 'When a man dies,' Jakob muses, 'his secrets bond like crystals'; the scar tissue of recollection makes him bleed at every attempt to move on. His state of 'living death', as he perceives it, comes from his deeply wounded 'love…that closes its mouth before calling a name'. Jakob declares 'memory undoes you' and haunted by Bella and loss, he longs for 'the loss of memory'. The unlikelihood of such a loss means Jakob may be forever entombed with the recollection of his family's erasure. However, through the arrival of critical and financial success as an author, and new love with a Russian Jewish émigré, Jakob faces the prospect of emancipation from his emotionally and spiritually mute state. Director/screenwriter Podeswa carries out a constant 'to and fro' shuffling of narrative and geography, to great effect. The characterisation of several crucial supporting roles is pencilled in, as if the audience will infer Holocaust survivors' woes from shorthand strokes, something that later generations may not necessarily do. Cinematically, however, this works: less is more. Adapted from poet Anne Michael's novel, this haunting, hopeful