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|Index||19 reviews in total|
It is fascinating how the horrors of World War II continue to spark off
good, intelligent cinema around the world even after a gap of over half
"Emotional Arithmetic" based on a novel by Matt Cohen (a Jew?), begins with an astounding remark "If you ask me if I believe in God, I am forced to answer does God believe in us?" The film is not about atheism. It reflects on the terrible scars left by war on orphans, on individuals who stand up and protest when wrong is done, on relationships forged in times of stress, pain and loss.
The charm of Paolo Barzman's film rests considerably in the hands of the capable actors-Susan Sarandon, Max von Sydow, Chistopher Plummer and Gabriel Bryne-all who have a maturity to carry off their parts in the film with grace. Ms Sarandon has matured into a formidable actress in recent films and this one showcases her talent.
Screened at the 12th International Film Festival of Kerala, India, the film forced this viewer to compare the contents of "Emotional Arithmetic" with those of a Swiss documentary "A Song for Argyris" also shown at the festival. Both films underlined the difficulties in forgetting tragic events in our lives and moving on. Both films indirectly discuss the bonding of survivors of tragic events.
As I watched the film I could not help but note the growing interest filmmakers in family bondsin "Emotional Arithmetic" it is merely a subplot balancing a "virtual" family that suffered during the Nazi rule with that of a real family comprising three generations living in idyllic conditions in Canada.
This film would offer considerable material to reflect on for the viewer, beyond the actual events shown on the screen.
Though there is no mention of a divine presence, the use of the vertical crane shots of the dining table and the car at interesting junctures in the film seem to suggest this debatable interpretation.
This Canadian film provides eye-candy locations that grab your attention from the opening shot. Mesmerizing crane shots are part of the film that provide an unusual charm to the high technical quality of the film, which becomes all the more apparent on the large cinemascope screen. So is the competent editing of the sequences that make the viewing process delectable. Like another Canadian film "Away from her" shown at the 11th edition of the festival, Canadian cinema has proved capable of dealing with serious subjects with the help of international actors, without resorting to the commercial gimmicks of mainstream American cinema, and employing high standards of craftsmanship in the true tradition of the famous Canadian filmmaker Claude Jutra!
AUTUMN HEARTS: A NEW BEGINNING is another one of those independent
films that lacks an audience until the DVD is released. Granted it is
not based on subject matter that titillates the big movie house
throngs, but it is a warmly tender film about the emotional effects of
historical traumas and how each of our histories molds our lives. It is
a superb work on every level. Director Paolo Barzman brings to life the
novel 'Emotional Arithmetic' by Matt Cohen (as adapted for the screen
by Jefferson Lewis) with a sterling cast of consummate actors. The
impact is lasting.
Melanie Winters (Susan Sarandon) lives on a picturesque farm in Canada with her retired university professor husband David (Christopher Plummer) and their grown son Benjamin (Roy Dupuis), an unexplained single father of his own son Timmy (Dakota Goyo) and caregiver for his physically ailing father and mentally fragile mother. Melanie lives in the past: as a child in 1942 she was interned in Drancy, an internment camp outside of Paris where she bonded with a young man Jakob Bronski and an Irish lad Christopher - taking on the responsibility of maintaining the written history of the camp at Jakob's request so that atrocities such as they were witnessing would never occur again ('Always remember'). At one point Jakob turned himself over to the Nazis to allow Melanie and Christopher to be released.
Now, years later, Melanie is still cataloging all of the atrocities in the world as they appear in the newspaper and continues to attempt to find Jakob. Jakob writes to her and soon is arriving in Canada as an elderly man (Max von Sydow), traveling with his surprise guest, the adult Christopher (Gabriel Byrne). It is this visit that reunites Melanie, Jakob, and Christopher that allows closure to their turbulent history and a healing not only for the three survivors but for Melanie's family also. It is as though it took a quiet time in the beauty of nature and the life-sustaining atmosphere of a farm to cleanse these 'autumn hearts' from the anguish of the past.
Not all of the elements of the story are resolved: we never learn much about Benjamin and his state of solo fatherhood, David's private life that so incenses Melanie, etc. But these are minor exclusions in this beautifully sculpted story and film. The cinematography by Luc Montpellier and the musical score by Normand Corbeil capture not only the beauty of the Canadian landscape and lush colors of the farm in autumn, but also heighten the authenticity of the Drancy camp experience in the black and white flashbacks. This is an exceptional film that deserves a wide audience. Grady Harp
This film was one of the absolute best acted, best directed and
scripted of any I have yet watched.
The film is not a tear jerker, except for the both dumb of heart and mind. It is a powerful story, that has roots in the very fabric of human history and the struggle for meaning in life.
The existential struggles and scarred souls of three Nazi concentration camp survivors, meet after 35 years. Lessons are learned by all involved.
The perhaps greatest lesson, is the need for the young to understand the life and circumstances their parents faced. And, ironically the inability of time to seem anything except indifferent to human suffering and existence itself. The past and its sufferings need give way to time's indiffernce. Live and love in the present. That is the crux of this fine drama.
I do-not suggest this film for insensitive slobbery and obviously some here saw nothing in it. It is as if a great film was cast before them and all they saw was a boring pace and words and emotions they could never feel or associate themselves with.
I have given this film a NINE. That for me is almost an impossible thing to do, if you review my reviews.
Congratulations on a moving, intellectual and poignant cinema.
What an amazing cast this film has, an amazing cast, an amazing story, a beautiful setting and wonderful performances by every one of the actors (even the young boy). I am shocked that these actors in this good of a film and I hadn't heard a word about it until a good month before it came out on DVD, then imagine my surprise when it is a measly 5.6 on IMDb, what a joke that is. I can't say enough about his cast everyone plays their roles perfectly, the writing is fantastic, even going places and touching on subjects that other movies have been afraid to tackle. I'm not going to go into any details hoping that anyone that sees this film goes in cold turkey like I did knowing nothing about it, I think that made it even better for me. The location where this film was shot is beautiful, the film uses a recurring color scheme through out that really makes the audience not just see it but feel it as well. The same can be said for the style and camera work in the flashback scenes, scenes that are not over used and that could easily be the emotion of the film but wisely in my opinion the director doesn't go that route and leaves the emotion in the here and now. Summed up this film was easily my biggest surprise film of this year, which is my favorite kind of film, one that I expect nothing and am rewarded with some thing truly great. Because this film is from Canada I do believe and may be some kind of mad for TV movie or so I've heard, I'm not sure of it's Oscar eligibility but if it is for some reason not eligible or is snubbed by either it's release date or just plain stupidity it would be a shame.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this film last night and its been with me on and off all day.
First off, don't expect Entertainment in the purest form of the word
here, this is a very adult, cerebral and slow-burning experience.
Ultimately, its about pain and the memory of it and how that can affect
life and relationships afterwards. To say the acting in this film is
good is a serious under-statement, but Susan Sarandon is absolutely
sublime, it honestly cant get much better than this.
The relationship between her and Christopher Plummer is at best dubious, and when Gabriel Byrne is introduced, we are left guessing as to whats the story here.Through some very subtle changes of tone, as the story progresses, you do wonder if Von Sydow and Byrnes presence, are finally filling some need in Plummer, through jealousy or a sense of competition , which, it has to be said, he feels he's losing desperately.
There's one scene in particular which shows just how sad memories can be when not shared with others and its only when it rains and the words are washed from the diary that you feel Sarandon has finally let go of the past as is symbolised by the rain making clean for the future.
Von Sydow realises he's been at fault by making her suffer through remembrance and declares 'She should have lived'. Great writing, direction and SUPERB acting, all add up to a very worth-while and deeply poignant movie.
This film is about three Nazi death camp survivors reuniting 35 years
later, arousing deep emotions and provoking old wounds.
I had high hopes for "Emotional Arithmetic". The cast is completely stellar and Oscar worthy. Their performances are all excellent, but unfortunately the plot is not enough to make the a masterpiece. The topic has so much potential to make it a tear jerker, but "Emotional Arithmetic" fails to be captivating. The past is poorly explained, and the present is inadequately described. I think every subplot is not developed to enough detail to evoke inner emotions in the viewers' hearts. The only memorable scene is when Melanie gets shattered by Jakob's reaction when she hands him a gift at the dinner table.
I feel disappointed by "Emotional Arithmetic". It has so much potential to grab and move viewers, but it turns out to be a rather unsatisfying bore.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a little gem of a film with superior acting and breathtaking
visuals. It does not appeal to a wide audience and never got wide
distribution. I'm not even sure it was ever shown commercially in the
United States. It is the type of film that causes fans of good acting
and production to be grateful for DVD's.
The story and the characters may be a bit exaggerated, but that can be forgiven because the viewer is offered insight into some extremely interesting personalities.
In 1942, Melanie Lansing was the pubescent daughter of American Jews living in France. It is not fully explained in the film, but Melanie has been separated from her parents and sent to Drancy. Drancy (Link) was a transit camp not far from Paris where those unwelcome in the Nazi world were prepared from shipment to concentration camps. At Drancy, Melanie meets Christopher Lewis who is an Irish lad about her same age. Christopher introduces Melanie to Jakob Bronski who is a young Jewish scholar in his twenties. Jakob is able to bribe the officials so that Melanie and Christopher are not sent to concentration camps in Germany. Just as Jakob is being packed off to a concentration camp, he gives Melanie a book with the obligation to record all who pass through Drancy. These events exist as Melanie's memories in the film that takes place in 1985.
Melanie Lansing Winters lives on a small farm in an idyllic setting in Eastern Canada with her husband David who is a semi-retired college professor. Also at the farm for a momentous event in Melanie's life are her son and grandson. It seems that Melanie has spent her life in support of oppressed groups of people and she has tracked down Jakob who was first sent to a German concentration camp and then to a Russian camp. In both he suffered unspeakable tortures both physical and psychological. Melanie has invited Jakob to her home offering him a place to stay for the rest of his life. It is clear from the beginning that her husband is not as enthusiastic about this plan as Melanie for reasons that will be exposed as the story continues.
Jakob arrives at the airport with a somewhat unsettling surprise for Melanie. He has brought Christopher with whom Melanie had lost contact. Christopher has nurtured his love for Melanie for over forty years and hopes that she returns his feelings.
The action in this tale takes place during one weekend and at a welcoming dinner for Jakob that Melanie has arranged. During that time we gain insight into Melanie, her husband, David, their son Benjamin, Christopher, and Jakob. The story revolving around this forty-three year old encounter is a bit weak, but the characters are solid as concrete as their emotions can be applied to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
A powerhouse of actors bring these characters to life.
Christopher Plummer is husband, David who appears first as an unfeeling lunk but emerges as a complex man whose life has been shaped by his love for an obsessive woman.
Roy Dupuis is solid as a son who has had to endure a life dominated by two opposite poles of overwhelming parents.
Dakota Goyo is beautiful as the grandson who is able to touch the innocence still contained in all of the wounded adults around him.
Gabriel Byrne is perfect as Christopher, a successful man still gripped by a love that began almost a half century ago.
Max von Sydow gives a hypnotic performance of a man who has suffered unimaginable tortures and has survived to live the last of his life in a peace created by his own mind.
The unstable and fanatical Melanie is played by Susan Sarandon. Has she ever given a bad performance? In this film, she gives us a woman who is basically unlikable, but her considerable acting talent forces us to care and emphasize with the emotionally damaged Melanie.
From the description, you may think that this is a tragic tale about a group of lost souls, but the DVD title is a spoiler to the conclusion of the film. This is a beautiful story of lost souls found, and it is solid, solid entertainment.
My first reaction to this film: It sucks beans.
But I gave it a lot of thought afterwards, and now the morning after, I think it is a very compelling picture worthy of a 2nd watch.
First I'll tell you why I initially hated it, maybe sparing you the misery. Everything about this film is extremely deceptive, setting up emotional expectations that are never fulfilled. The USA title "Autumn Hearts: A New Beginning" is way off the mark, and the DVD packaging is awful, describing it as "a tender love story of redemption, healing and reconciliation." HUH?? Did the marketing department even bother to watch the movie? If you watch this movie expecting a sentimental tear-jerker or a "tender love story", you'll find yourself hurling popcorn at the screen in disgust. It is none of those things, despite the sweeping, lush cinematography and Hallmark-greeting-card setting (complete with melodramatic musical score that does its best to yank our emotions to the surface). Whether deliberate or not, the film is very misleading in that respect.
If not a cryfest, what do you get instead? You get a marvellous, philosophical question that goes to the root of what we are as human beings. What is our job on this planet, and what are our limits of duty vs. survival? The movie investigates four major characters struggling with the same question, each taking a markedly different approach. Four peoples' lives have been twisted out of shape by the injustice of humanity. How do they react? One (Gabriel Byrne) suppresses the trauma under a veneer of British civility & reticence*. Another (Max von Sydow) has had the memories forcibly erased by chemicals and exectroshock experiments, though he still retains an inexplicable connection. A third character (Susan Sarandon) obsessively collects her memories, appointing herself as a sort of librarian of human injustice and in so doing, starts to lose her mind. And a fourth character (Christopher Plummer) is a secondary victim, suffering by association and trying his best to move ahead while realizing the impossibility of that notion.
The dynamic is incredibly well played. There is no clearcut answer, and each character plays against the others hoping to find the route to peace. I didn't find this to be an emotional film but instead a very intellectual puzzle. The original title "Emotional Arithmetic", while not as poetic or appealing as "Autumn Hearts", is definitely more appropriate if you choose to view the film as I described it. It is an almost scientific approach to the manipulation of emotions, bringing us back to the main question: is our job to hold on to the past, like living history books, toruted & martyred for the sake of teaching future generations? Or is our job to bury the ugly face of past injustice and focus on moving forward ourselves? However way you choose, the answer is represented by one (or more) of the four characters.
This film is a slow-paced philosophical soul teaser wrapped up in a bright-coloured (emotional) package. There's definitely a lot going on, much like a Wim Wenders film ("Lisbon Story", "Paris Texas") or a Hirokazu Koreeda film ("Maborosi", "After Life") though not nearly that slow. Another film I might compare it to is "The Shipping News" by Lasse Hallström but that comparison is mainly due to the director's way of using landscape & nature to create a mood. One thing about this film that no one will deny is that the setting (Quebec in the early Autumn) is about as beautiful & dreamy as any place on Earth.
*Yes, I know Gabriel Byrne is Irish, not British!
A group of survivors from a French based concentration camp in WWII
gather for a weekend at a country home in Quebec, more than 30 years
after the war.
Most critics either praised this to the skies, calling it as powerful as Bergman. or they damned it for being slow, too familiar, sappy and not special. I lean more towards the positive.
First of all this is a wonderful bunch of older actors (Max Von Sydow, Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Christopher Plummer) and, as one would expect, they each bring a lot to their roles.
It is also beautifully photographed.
If not quite Bergman, I do buy it as 'Bergman-lite'; the same sense of the confusing complexities of the human heart, and the way earlier damage always comes back to haunt us. Yes it has a few over-the-top moments, and it ultimately didn't pack quite the punch I expected, but I was never bored, despite the deliberate pace, and found each of these lost souls quite compelling.
I liked this movie a lot, however, as in some previous remarks, I feel that they all came up short on where they wanted to go. I agree that more of the past should have been developed, and tied to the characters in the present. For me, it was a bit confusing that it seemed like such a modern time, and I just didn't believe that they had survived the Holocaust. I felt they should have shown more hauntings from the past, and perhaps a bit more clinging to each other, after having survived in the emotional shipwreck of Drancy. I think, perhaps more of their message could have been brought out if they had just spent more time in the scenes from the past. After seeing this movie, I did some research on Drancy and was shocked to learn it was the French, with the approval of the Nazi's, who did this. There should have been more history lessons, I feel, so we could see the larger picture. Anyway, I loved Max von Sydow's portrayal of Jakob, and I liked Susan Sarandon's suffering, but I just felt it seemed to be disconnected from what happened in the past. I was expecting a multi hankie movie, and only shed an occasional tear. All the actors are really good, and this is well worth the money to rent or own, and to open discussions about the atrocities of WWII and the Nazi regime.
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