Marcel Marceau (1923-2007) is someone I’ve never known much about. My knowledge of him extended to an awareness that he was a world-famous French mime who was beloved for his skills in using his body to express himself rather than his words.
Along with Clémence Poésy’s believable portrayal as both heroine and victim, Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg turns in another decent performance here. He starred in, ‘The End of the Tour,’ ‘The Social Network,’ and ‘The Art of Self-Defense,’ among over forty others, making me a lifelong fan. I genuinely like Eisenberg in general; however, he should have studied more of the technique Marceau used before taking on this role. The film honors something exceedingly significant that Marceau accomplished during World War II. He put his life in grave danger as a member of the French Resistance. This being the case, the movie deserved the extra attention the actor playing its subject should have given the portrayal. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the drama and strongly recommend it. Many are not aware of his achievements before becoming a famous artist, and it’s nice to see that someone put a spotlight on his brave efforts.
Marceau’s life as an actor, impersonating Chaplin, and as a playwright, changes when he and other resistance members help children escape the Nazis when the war starts. They give them a place to stay and care for the children after their parents were murdered. Marceau’s comedic talents come in handy when they need some entertainment to settle down. Because of the war, they, along with his whole family, have to leave for the south of France, planning to return. Strasbourg, France’s entire population, vacates the area for safer countries at the time. He then gets deeply involved in trying to save as many as possible when he sees what men who follow Hitler, like Klaus Barbie (Schweighöfer), are capable of.
Something that will keep you on the edge of your seat and covering your eyes is that we get a chance to know the monster Barbie is during some vicious, uncomfortable, and intense scenes that will haunt you for some time to come. When the film starts, we see a Jewish girl Elsbeth (Ramsey), being tucked in at bedtime by her parents. As suspected, the evening is interrupted by Nazi’s busting down the door and killing her parents. What’s particularly frightening about the scene is how it pertains to things going on today. Elsbeth asks her parents why people hate them and the answer her father gives her will ring in your ears the rest of the movie. Assuring her things will be better tomorrow will do nothing of the sort for you if you go in knowing the film was clearly made as a warning that no one is safe from a made man with unchecked power. Due to the Nazi occupation, Elsbeth is now in Marceau’s capable and gentle hands, warm and secure. He intends to keep her alive, so he tucks her away in a church with a loving minister.
Tired of being pushed around and getting stopped on the streets, he (then known as Marcel Mangel), joins the Resistance. He was thouroughly willing to fight and do whatever it took to bring Hitler down and take the Nazi Party out. Learning more about them and aware that he wasn’t a soldier, he knew his talents were needed elsewhere. Along with Emma (Poésy), he eventually concentrated his efforts on getting as many souls as possible out of the hands of the beastly SS.
Later, General Patton (Harris) asks his troops to imagine what it would be like to fight Nazis as an unarmed civilian then introduces him for his first public performance. Before the credits, we’re informed that Marceau was directly responsible for saving hundreds of children and indirectly responsible for saving thousands of lives. His favorite route was a terrifying one and hazardous, but the scene where you watch him and his charges make their first trek into Switzerland is well written, powerful, and moving. It’s tragic at the same time, which it absolutely needed to be. If you’re going to tell the story, you can’t shy away from what these people endured, no matter how unbearable the truth of what they experienced was.
*Where to find ‘Resistance’
Digital Platforms: iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay/YouTube, Vudu, PlayStation
Cable Platforms: Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner, Brighthouse), Verizon Fios, Altice (Optimum), Cox, DirecTV, AT&T, Bend Broadband, Buckeye, Guadalupe Valley, Hotwire Communications, Metrocast, Suddenlink, WOW Internet Cable, RCN, Midcontinent Communications
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Writer: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Ed Harris, Edgar Ramirez, Clémence Poésy, Matthias Schweighöfer, Bella Ramsey and Géza Röhrig
Running Time: 2h
Genres: Biography, Drama, History