There is no need for a film to be epic to convey its poignant message. It does not have to capture bloodshed to explain how ruthless Nazi Germany was against Jews. It’s a sad chapter of humanity that was lacking compassion, empathy, and mercy. However, through those dark times, it is an opportunity for heroes to rise. Not because it’s the only way to shine but because they did not know they can do what they eventually end up doing.
“Resistance” follows the untold story of Marcel Marceau’s heroism during WWII. Due to his improvisation skills and unique qualities that enabled him to connect with children, the young man joins the French Resistance to save many Jewish children. Risking his life, Marcel discovers in himself the person he did not know existed. As such, he became the most important mime of all time.
When we first meet Marcel as a pantomime, he defies the path of his father and refuses to become a butcher. His brother Alain is already part of the resistance. But when the film starts, it is narrated by George S. Patton (Ed Harris) who tells an extraordinary story of a man he once knew. Marcel falls for Emma, the young and courageous woman who will stop at nothing to save as many lives as she can. Marcel falls for her but is still reserved about his feelings. He even told her at some point that he’s not good with children. But shortly after, it will appear that no one could have succeeded in building communication with children the way Marcel did.
That, of course, helps him to be useful in the Resistance but it was his improvisation skills that turn him into an important asset that the French Resistance wanted to use. As the story unfolds we see Emma’s sister Mila getting executed right in front of her by Klaus Barbie. The next scene was, in a way, poetic. Klaus, the SS officer, who kills Jews while he drinks wine, is tenderly in love with his newborn baby. And that is the reality of war the film introduces us to – even a family man can become a mass murderer.
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, “Resistance” is an excellent example of why determination and act of bravery is an essential skill that can help people survive any war. For instance, Marcel does not need to be a hero. When Emma asks him to do everything in his power to kill Barbie, he said that he would rather save children’s lives than killing him. And that is true. Marcel’s critical thinking ability allows him to make decisions at times most would not be able to. In one particular scene, it is because of his decision that lives were saved. A decision that leads towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
That said, “Resistance” has its ups and downs. However, it is a very decent film that does not hesitate from reliving the shameful and tragic part of the twentieth century, something that should not be forgotten. It avoids the gruesome scenes but makes sure that regardless of how it’s being portrayed, director Jonathan Jakubowicz still subtly points at it in the most respectful way. Jesse Eisenberg does a fine job portraying a historic figure who was highly regarded for his tremendous contribution to the French Resistance. As for the film, it touches upon an important subject of why the world needs more people like Marcel Marceau. Because without individuals like him, the planet won’t last long. And if it does, it will be as empty as the hearts of those who have taken the lives of children just because somebody told them to.