Emotional Arithmetic Preview Screening
Paolo Barzman’s Canadian production, Emotional Arithmetic, premiered on Thursday, February 21st at Cinema 319 in Vancouver. CJSF’s Nick Pannu reviews.
Three survivors of a Nazi Detention camp are reunited after 40 years. Incarcerated in a transient camp on the outskirts of Paris made eventual deportation to Auschwitz and thereafter death imminent. Meeting again rekindles the bond that once was their only salvation. Spending time together is invigorating and therapeutic. Yet, it also divulges the lingering trauma that they mutually share due to their horrific experience. Each character struggles to put the past behind them, but seem incapable. They all struggle to answer the question; why did they survive, while so many others perished?
Jefferson Lewis is effective and strategic in his ability to transform Matt Cohen’s novel into a screenplay. The essence of the novel is not diluted within the context of film. The opening scene begins profound monologue: “Do I believe in God…ask me does God believe in me”. This paradox sets the course for the film. The viewer is engaged through the process of being coerced to analyze and interpret dialogue and scenes.
Director, Paolo Barzman, also strategically positions scenes to focus almost exclusively on the trauma that each survivor is forced to live and cope with. Through the various flashbacks the conditions in the detention camp are not explicit. It’s clear that Barzman’s intention is not to have the audience pre-occupied with horrific scenes from the detention camp and what occurred there. Rather, he explores the ongoing struggle that the survivors of the horrific acts have to endure for the rest of their lives. Susan Sarandon gives a stunning and genuine performance in her portrayal of Melanie. Max von Sydow and Gabrial Bryne are equally brilliant.
Many filmmakers in Canada have a vision to create an exclusive Canadian film industry. This film proves that film community in Canada is quite capable of producing work that is not only entertaining but of valued substance as well.
Emotional Arithmetic was presented by the First Weekend Club, a non-profit organization that aims to build audiences for Canadian films. Their mandate is to keep films in theatres longer by building awareness and strong box office for great Canadian cinema on opening weekends. Find out more at www.firstweekendclub.ca