| Michael Caine as Vichy official Pierre Brossard in The Statement (courtesy photo) |
In the black-and-white prologue to The Statement, it is a dismal night in Dombey, France, in 1944. Seven Jews are rousted from their homes, lined up against a wall, and shot to death. Following the credits, the time is 1992, and Pierre Brossard, the Vichy official who collaborated with the Nazis in the Dombey massacre, is desperately trying to elude assassination. Confronted on an isolated road in Provence, Brossard manages to shoot his failed assailant first. On the stranger's body, he finds the printed statement that gives the film its title - that Pierre Brossard, whom the Catholic Church had been shielding from retribution, was finally executed by Jewish commandos for being a Nazi and a murderer.
In his 1996 novel, The Statement, Brian Moore drew loosely on the case of Paul Touvier, a Vichy official implicated in atrocities who, though pardoned by President Georges Pompidou and shielded by the Catholic Church, was eventually convicted of crimes against humanity. An intelligent thriller, Norman Jewison's film adaptation follows the aging, ailing Brossard as he seeks sanctuary from his enemies within a succession of abbeys and absolution for his sins within his pious faith. Michael Caine's Brossard is the portrait of a wily survivor who, in a world of hypocrites and opportunists, can trust no one but himself.
| The Statement
Dir. Norman Jewison; writ. Ronald Harwood, Brian Moore (novel); feat. Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling (R)
Except for the prologue, in which German soldiers are heard speaking their native tongue, The Statement relies on the convention that, though its actors deliver their lines in English, we are to understand that the characters are really speaking French. It works as well as would a spaghetti Western in which frontier desperados defy one another in Italian. However, a local constable explains to Colonel Roux that the third bullet in the corpse he found beside a road in Provence was the "coup de grâce." He mispronounces the final word "grah," as if his only contact with anything French were pâté de foie. Aside from that small gaffe, The Statement makes its subtle points with maximum efficiency and cinematic grace. •