Sensitive adaptation of Fugitive Pieces

(Canscene) —Recalling how badly many novels have been treated in screen adaptations, gave me cause to me rejoice after viewing Jeremy Podeswa’s inspired translation of Fugitive Pieces from printed page to screen; he wrote the script as well as directing the film.

This first novel by poet Anne Michaels was published in 1999 to great critical acclaim both for her style and the book’s content. Many film makers and financing prospects must have shaken their heads at the daunting project until Robert Lantos, with his usual flair for discovering excellent subject material, decided to run with Podeswa.

Jakob Beer, a Jewish boy fleeing from a Nazi roundup, is rescued and smuggled out of Poland by Athos, a Greek archeologist. Athos manages to keep Jakob from harm until the war is over when he takes a position teaching at a Toronto university and moves to Canada with the boy he now regards as his own son.

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Jakob in adulthood has an identity problem leading him into a failed first marriage. He believes his sister, abducted by the Nazis on the day he escaped, might still be alive but meets with frustration at every turn.

Jakob’s one enduring bond after the death of Athos is neighbour Ben who with his parents has also been a Nazi target and through whom he meets Michaela, his beloved second wife.

Podeswa, who directed TIFF award winner The Five Senses in 1999, has honed his skills on some important TV productions such as Six Feet Under, Rome and Nip/Cut and is firmly in command of his material, allowing his camera to capture Anne Michael’s poetic insight into the human heart.

This is a film about love and the need to give and accept it.
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