26 May 2013 | moonbus-982-519398
Depardieu in top form
Gérard Depardieu leads a very talented cast in this film, closely based on a story titled "Small World" by Swiss author Martin Suter. Simone (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) marries into a very wealthy family. The wedding is crashed by the besotted old friend Konrad (Depardieu) of her father-in-law, Thomas (Niels Arestrup). Konrad is an acute embarrassment to the family, but instead of being thrown out of the house he is treated with surprising gentleness and deference. Konrad (Depardieu) is suffering from early stages of memory loss (possibly Alzheimer's). Rather than put him up in a clinic, Grandma (Françoise Fabian) insists that he be installed in the guest house on the family estate with round-the- clock nursing care. Simone gradually discovers that there are terrible family secrets lurking about, and Grandma and Konrad appear to be the focal point of them. The problem is: Grandma lies about the past, and nobody will believe Konrad because of his deteriorating sanity. As Simone probes more deeply, she finds herself at odds with her new husband, Grandma, and the house staff; she draws closer to Konrad and a very moving relationship develops between them, made increasingly difficult for her by Konrad's not remembering who she is from one day to the next. But his childhood memories are intact, and they keep contradicting Grandma's version of what happened. Simone's discovery of a photo album corroborates much of what Konrad has been babbling, and precipitates a family crisis.
Depardieu is simply fantastic in this role of a man with an increasingly tenuous grip on reality. His seemingly effortless performance compares to Hoffman's portrayal of the autistic man- child in "Rainman". Alexandra Lara shines as the newly-wed wife thrown into the deep end of a profoundly troubled and conspiratorial family. Françoise Fabian might remind you of Livia from "I Claudius"--a snake bit her and the snake died!
In addition to convincingly real performances, fine direction and a solid screenplay make this a very good film.