In “Remember,” screen legend Christopher Plummer plays an elderly man on a mission. He just can’t, no matter how hard he tries, remember everything it entails.
His character, Zev Guttman, is an Auschwitz survivor struggling with dementia. After his wife dies, Zev leaves the facility where he lives and, with encouragement from wheelchair-bound survivor Max (Martin Landau), sets out to kill one of the Nazi guards responsible for the deaths of some family members (Max believes the guard is living in the U.S. or Canada under an assumed name).
Director Atom Egoyan, an Oscar nominee for 1997’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” was quite conscious of the timing of his latest film.
“We were very aware that this was one of the last stories we could tell about the Holocaust in our time [depicting] actual victims and perpetrators, that in five years this would be a period piece,” Egoyan says. “And there are trials happening right now in Germany which make it very much of the moment. It intrigued me that one of the last stories about this that would be told in our present day is full of rage and full of anger that is still brewing. History does not necessarily heal things by itself.”
Zev’s attempt to solve a mystery amid his deepening confusion means he’s never working with the full story, a recurring theme in Egoyan’s works and an experience he believes to be universal.
“I try and find a language that reveals the way the characters feel about their own condition,” the Canadian filmmaker says. “And very often, where they are in the world around them is not immediately clear to them, and what it means to have these bits of information disclose themselves is very much reflective of how they feel to them situating themselves in that place.”
Zev, the audience’s guide in “Remember,” is a deeply unreliable narrator. As he doggedly pursues his plan, not only does he discover new information, but things he used to know slip through his memory, only to (sometimes) be rediscovered; realizations about himself and his situation don’t come as epiphanies, but as experiences that are filtered and forgotten.
“I’m suspicious of convenience, is I guess what it comes down to,” Egoyan says. “I feel this story is not following a formula. It is a high-risk venture, but that’s what I’m prepared to play.”
More film interviews from Kristen Page-Kirby