Rating: Rated MA 15+ (strong sex scene)
Fugitive Pieces is based on Jeremy Podeswa's adaptation of Anne Michael's beloved and acclaimed prose-poem novel of the same name.
Like the poem, the film is a haunting kaleidoscope of words and emotions. Lyrical and complex, it builds into a mosaic as fragments of the past and present reveal the inner depths of a writer who cannot let go of the ghosts that haunt him.
The film opens in Biskupin, Poland, where Jakob Beer (Robbie Kay) is hidden away just before the invading Nazi army arrives to arrest him and his parents. With some foreknowledge of what was happening else, Jacob and his sister’s parents prepare for this day by encouraging their small boy and girl to hide, and when the coast is clear, to run to a safe place. After their parents are taken away Bella says they have to stay. Disregarding Bella’s instructions, Jakob runs away. His sister Bella’s fate will remain a mystery that will haunt Jakob for the rest of his life.
Rather than a safe place Jacob runs and hides in the woods and is found by Athos Roussos (Rade Serbedzija).Athos, who is directing an archeaological dig in Nazi-occupied Poland, claims him as his own and takes him back to island of Zakynthos in Greece to raise him as his own. As the Nazis move into Greece the stakes become higher for Athos and Jacob. Surviving the war, Athos takes a teaching position in Canada and the two men move there. Jakob (Stephen Dillane) becomes a celebrated writer in Canada. He befriends his next door neighbour’s son Ben (Ed Stoppard) who also wants to write. He also falls in and out and in love, often seeming too remote because of the ghosts that haunt him.
Fugitive Pieces is not an easy film. The subject matter, the literary style and the slowness of the pace will not appeal to everyone. But it is a survivor’s story of a child who was haunted to and through adulthood by the burden of his legacy.
It is wonderfully acted, and the intensity of the drama, though consistently domestic in scale, is rich and deep. This a a most humane film at every level.
Aztec International Distributor Out November 20
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.