Set in France just after World War II, story centers on Regina(Irene Jacob), a celebrated stage actress and temperamental diva, as she assays title role of “Hamlet,” aspiring to the legendary status of Sarah Bernhardt. She’s involved in a relationship with a black musician, but clearly something crucial is missing from her life — personal fulfillment and some sense of stability.
During a triumphant provincial tour, Regina encounters a mysterious stranger, Fosca (Stephen Rea), a man totally oblivious to the outside world and its mundane pleasures. Assisted by her loyal dresser (Marianne Sagebrecht), Regina breaks into Fosca’s room, only to find an empty space, with no clothes or belongings save some papers indicating he’s an amnesia patient.
Regina follows him and a timid relationship evolves. In their mutually inspiring rendezvous, which forms the dramatic core of the film, they exchange ideas and feelings about the nature of love, the meaning of life and death.
Yarn captures marvelously the zeitgeist of the postwar years: the roots of the existential movement that Sartre and de Beauvoir founded, the stimulating cafe culture, the smoky jazz clubs populated by black musicians.
Pic’s most impressive aspect is its writing. Scripters retained only the first part of the book and changed the p.o.v. from male to female while quite authentically conveying the era’s ferment as well as the characters’ idiosyncratic personalities.
Helmer de Jong spices the proceedings with some drollery and wit, but overall his direction is unassured, failing to provide his rambling pic with the finely modulated tempo and mood it requires. Meanwhile, the acting is uneven.
Of the two leads, only Rea renders the requisite eccentricity in an extremely demanding role that calls for equal measures of sanity and lunacy, innocence and disenchantment. But the film exposes Jacob’s limitations as an actress. Though luminously beautiful, she lacks the range and depth to play a temperamental diva.
Due to budgetary constraints, pic was largely shot in Budapest, but it has a good period feel, enhanced by Bruno de Keyser’s lensing and Ben van Os’ exquisite production design.