Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie with Abe: Closer to the Moon

Closer to the Moon
Directed by Nae Caranfil
Released March 27, 2015

Movie summaries can be deceptive. I actually try to read as little as possible about a film before I see it, but I happen to have read the short synopsis on IMDB before watching this film. The story of Jewish resistance fighters in Romania from World War II staging a heist under the guise of a filming a movie made this film seem like a more dated European version of “Argo.” What that event does in fact take place during the film, it’s hardly the film’s centerpiece, which turns out to be a far less energizing and worthwhile tale.

“Closer to the Moon,” which is based on a true story, focuses much more heavily on the aftermath of the robbery, as the crime’s Jewish conspirators are held in a Romanian prison and forced to act in a propaganda production that dramatizes their efforts and the ultimate victory of the Communist state. Starry-eyed photographer Virgil (Harry Lloyd) is selected to film it, and he takes it all in with a sense of wonder and energy, augmented by the fact that he was present at the scene of the actual crime.

What Virgil witnesses is a farce of sorts, as these imprisoned criminals, knowing full well that they have been caught and are likely to face execution for their deed, soak up the opportunity to reenact their crime. They make a mockery of the situation by looking at the making of a propaganda film as serious cinema, determined to deliver their best performances. As the film progresses and some of their backstory is revealed, it becomes clearer that they are under no illusions that this freedom from their cells is merely temporary and impermanent. While it’s an intriguing concept, the film’s focus does not gravitate towards its most fascinating or compelling parts.

Lloyd may be known but certainly won’t be recognized from his stint as Viserys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones,” and here he plays the default role of the curious youngster without much self-defining personality who has to weigh his conscience against his duty to the party. The ragtag band of criminals include three prominent actors – Mark Strong, Vera Farmiga, and Christian McKay – all having a good time but not being used to their full potential. This film might have looked good in the history books and on paper, but as realized cinematically, it just doesn’t click.


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