Who Done It?
The Last Vermeer
Stars: Guy Pearce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps, Roland Moller, Olivia Grant, August Diehl, and Adrian Scarborough
Director: Dan Friedkin
Scriptwriters: John Orloff, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby from “The Man Who Made Vermeers” by Jonathan Lopez
Composer: Johan Soderqvist
Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin
TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures
Rating: R for violence and themed material
Running Length: 118 Minutes
Guy Pearce is an actor who can do many things. From “Momento” to my favorite, the character of Jack Irish in the television series of the same name. In “The Last Vermeer,” Pearce acts the role of Han van Meergren, an artist and suspected forger. He does this with a flair. The time is just after WWII, when stolen, or illegally bought art works were being tracked down. The person who is tracking them is Capt. Joseph Piller, acted by Claes Bang from “The Square.” It is a cat-and-mouse game of who is capable of what, who may have done what and what will happen next? Along for the ride is Piller’s assistant, Minna, played by Vicky Krieps. "The Last Vermeer" is the first film directed by Dan Friedkin.
During WWII, the Nazi’s were interested in buying art work, either for themselves, or for Hitler. The art work, being famous paintings here, were taken mostly, from their owners. It is Piller’s job to track the art work down. Piller was a member of the Dutch Resistance and is now an Allied officer. He meets Han van Meergren. Piller is suspicious of Han and ends up putting him in an attic studio. There is brutality in the streets with people going against collaborators with the Nazis. The main point here is the Johannes Vermeer painting, “Christ and the Adulteress.” (another famous painting of Vermeer is “The Lacemaker.”) Is this painting genuine or is it a clever forgery. If so, when was it done and who did it? Then, again, the painting was bought by Herman Goering and for himself, or was he buying for Hitler? All of this intrigue ends up in a trial, where van Meergren, gets to display his knowledge of the subject, and where Guy Pearce gives a good performance. Ethics are involved here and we usually think of it in human terms, but here, it is for art.
The search for art work is played against the beautiful scenery of Europe, with the production design by Arthur Max, and cinematography by Remi Adefarasin. You can’t have good art work without a backdrop. If you can’t afford to travel to Europe, you can see what part of it looks like here. Literally, art work everywhere, from buildings to lush rooms to paintings.
As for acting, Guy Pearce takes his scenes with gusto. His van Meergren plays to an audience. Claes Bang conveys his feelings with body language. Vicky Krieps, as Minna, doesn’t have that much screen time. In the film, the story goes around van Meergren and Piller with Minna off to the side.
What we learn from “The Last Vermeer,” is that when one owns a valuable piece of art during wartime, you are liable to have it taken from you and you may never get it back. Ownership can take years to prove and if something was bought during war years, was that an ethical purchase? Something that was worth thousands of dollars then could be worth millions now. Then, comes--- was the art work that was bought genuine? Or a fake so good experts argue about its authenticity? It’s like taking apart a tapestry, thread after thread and ending up at the needle. Just where do you stop?
Copyright 2020 Marie Asner