A lawyer defends her father accused of war crimes, but there is more to the case than she suspects.A lawyer defends her father accused of war crimes, but there is more to the case than she suspects.A lawyer defends her father accused of war crimes, but there is more to the case than she suspects.
The movie is supposed to have been inspired by the real-life case of John Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident accused of war crimes at Treblinka and Sobibor, extradited to Israel for trial in the mid 80's. The movie even has a brief reference to this Demjanjuk guy when someone tries to pronounce his complicated last name in a conversation with Jessica Lange. Costa Gavras seems to be intrigued by our very perception of the Holocaust and our ambivalent approach toward it. Lawyer Ann Talbot's Hungarian-born father is accused of war crimes, her ex-father-in-law is somewhat scornful towards the inviolability of the Holocaust, and even had drinks with "those monsters" when the West used ex-Nazis as spies against Communism. Not to mention the difficulty of prosecuting war crimes 40 odd years later when justice can be won by either concocted evidence or the cunning of legal argument, and historical truth becomes less important.
The courtroom scenes and dialogues are truly remarkable in their restraint, and give the viewer just enough background as is needed about the atrocities of Arrow Cross in Hungary between 1944 and 1945. Specially the testimony of one Mr. Bodai is awesome, that of man so much ravaged by horror that his delivery is almost a monotone, with little emotional difference between responding a "yes" and a "no".
But it is Jessica Lange that outshines everyone else in performance, may be one of her best ever.
- Sep 15, 2004