×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Left Luggage

Actor Jeroen Krabbe's first effort as director is a well intentioned but uneven and overly sentimental film about a young, liberated Jewish woman who finds herself drawn to members of an orthodox Hassidic family in Antwerp in 1972. Centering on a strident central performance from miscast British thesp Laura Fraser, pic is undeniably thoughtful and serious, yet at the same time surprisingly contrived and unconvincing in crucial details. Despite a strong, though barely integrated, cast of players, film is likely to perform only modestly in most territories.

With:
Chaja - Laura Fraser Mrs. Kalman - Isabella Rossellini Chaja's father - Maximilian Schell Mr. Kalman - Jeroen Krabbe Chaja's mother - Marianne Sagebrecht Concierge - David Bradley Simcha - Adam Monty Mr. Apfelschnitt - Chaim Topol Mrs. Goldman - Miriam Margolyes Mr. Goldman - Lex Goudsmit Dov - Benjamin Broekaert Avrom - Ben Glanz Sofie - Heather Weeks

Actor Jeroen Krabbe’s first effort as director is a well intentioned but uneven and overly sentimental film about a young, liberated Jewish woman who finds herself drawn to members of an orthodox Hassidic family in Antwerp in 1972. Centering on a strident central performance from miscast British thesp Laura Fraser, pic is undeniably thoughtful and serious, yet at the same time surprisingly contrived and unconvincing in crucial details. Despite a strong, though barely integrated, cast of players, film is likely to perform only modestly in most territories.

The insurmountable hurdle Krabbe faces here is the fact that, while the film deals very specifically with the traditions and rigorously conservative ways of Hassidic Jewry, the apparent demands of an English-language Euro co-production have ensured that the actors, who hail from various countries and speak with a variety of accents, hardly convince as citizens of Antwerp except on the most artificial level. This won’t matter in territories where films are dubbed anyway, but for English-language auds it requires an enormous leap of faith to accept Fraser, with her very British accent and attitude, as the daughter of Maximilian Schell and Marianne Sagebrecht.

Popular on Variety

Fraser plays Chaja, a free spirited 20-year-old student who shares an apartment with a like-minded girl (Heather Weeks) and whose latest lover is a long haired revolutionary. She occasionally visits her parents, who are both concentration camp survivors. Her mother is into denial, and spends her time weaving blankets and baking cakes, while her father is obsessed with locating two suitcases of family treasures he buried in the garden of a house in the city before being transported by the Germans. Actually, his quest for these missing treasures provides the film with some of its best scenes, thanks to Schell’s convincingly touching portrayal.

Needing cash to avoid eviction from her apartment, Chaja — with the help of an old family friend (Chaim Topol) — seeks employment as a nanny in the home of a strict Hassidic family, even though she at first treats these orthodox Jews with something close to contempt. Not one to live by the rules of any society, she vigorously rejects the very rigid lifestyle of the Kalmans (Jeroen Krabbe, Isabella Rossellini), who have five children.

In the circumstances, it’s stretching credulity that someone as “modern” as Chaja wouldn’t be able to find work in a less rigid environment, and also that the Kalmans would allow someone who derides their traditions to care for their younger offspring.

In any event, Chaja is soon smitten by 4-year-old Simcha (Adam Monty), who refuses to talk, apparently because his stern father has terrified him into silence (he also urinates in his pants whenever his dad’s around.) Chaja takes the boy in hand and soon has him not only talking but learning the doctrine required by his father.

In adapting a 1993 novel by Carl Friedman, Krabbe and screenwriter Edwin de Vries have forthrightly depicted the lingering scourge of anti-Semitism, both open (neo Nazis daub swastikas in the park where the Hassidic Jews congregate) and more subtle (Chaja’s roommate never knew she was Jewish, and is obviously taken aback when she discovers the news). The anti-Semitism theme is, unfortunately, crystallized in the wildly unconvincing character of the concierge (David Bradley), who administers the building where the Kalmans live. The actions of this bad tempered bigot are, as written and acted, barely credible.

Pic pulls out all the emotional stops for a tragic climax and a conclusion of all around bonding, but it remains a strangely remote experience. This is partly because of the casting concessions already noted, plus the fact that some actors are more successful than others in finding their characters. Rossellini is very fine as the compliant Mrs. Kalman, while director Krabbe is also impressive as her unbending husband.

But the relatively inexperienced Fraser, who is asked to carry the film, seems uncomfortable in her demanding role. Production values are solid, though Henny Vrienten’s saccharine music score is overly repetitive.

Left Luggage

(Genre --- Dutch-Belgian-U.S. --- Color)

Production: A Trident release (outside North America) of a Left Luggage BV Shooting Star Flying Dutchman Prods. (Amsterdam) Favourite Films (Brussels) Greystone Films (Los Angeles) co production. Produced by Ate de Jong, Hans Pos, Dave Schram. Executive producers, Craig Haffner, Brad Wilson. Co producers, Dirk Impens, Rudy Verzyck. Directed by Jeroen Krabbe. Screenplay, Edwin de Vries, based on the novel "The Shovel and the Loom" by Carl Friedman

Crew: Camera (Cineco color), Walter Vanden Ende; editor, Edgar Burcksen; music, Henny Vrienten; production design, Hemmo Sportel; costume design, Yan Tax, Bernadette Corstens; sound (Dolby), Leo Fransen; associate producers, Maria Peters, Edwin de Vries, Jeroen Krabbe; assistant director, Marc van der Bijl; casting, Susie Figgis. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 12, 1998. Running time: 100 min.

With: Chaja - Laura Fraser Mrs. Kalman - Isabella Rossellini Chaja's father - Maximilian Schell Mr. Kalman - Jeroen Krabbe Chaja's mother - Marianne Sagebrecht Concierge - David Bradley Simcha - Adam Monty Mr. Apfelschnitt - Chaim Topol Mrs. Goldman - Miriam Margolyes Mr. Goldman - Lex Goudsmit Dov - Benjamin Broekaert Avrom - Ben Glanz Sofie - Heather WeeksCamera (Cineco color), Walter Vanden Ende; editor, Edgar Burcksen; music, Henny Vrienten; production design, Hemmo Sportel; costume design, Yan Tax, Bernadette Corstens; sound (Dolby), Leo Fransen; associate producers, Maria Peters, Edwin de Vries, Jeroen Krabbe; assistant director, Marc van der Bijl; casting, Susie Figgis. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 12, 1998. Running time: 100 min.

More Film

  • The Day is Long and Dark

    Francisco Barreiro Cast in Upcoming Julio Hernández Cordón Project (EXCLUSIVE)

    Julio Hernández Cordón, one of Mexico’s most-awarded independent filmmakers over the last decade, has found the leading man for his next feature “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires),” in Fantastic Fest best actor winner Francisco Barreiro, star of Adrián García Bogliano’s “Here Comes the Devil.”. Barreiro’s casting was shared with Variety from Buenos [...]

  • Macabre

    Rio Fest’s Compact Edition Opens Amidst Sectorial Crisis

    RIO DE JANEIRO  — The 21st Rio Intl. Film Fest opens Monday Dec. 9t with the screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in the Odeon landmark theater. The smaller than usual edition, which was almost cancelled due to the lack of municipal backing, reflects the crisis of Brazil’s film sector, involved in a battle with the administration [...]

  • Papa-YouTuber

    Peru’s ‘Papa YouTuber’ Goes Global (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentine sales agency FilmSharks Int’l label The Remake Company has sold remake rights at Ventana Sur to Peruvian family comedy hit “Papa YouTuber” (“YouTuber Dad”) to Mexico’s Cinepolis and Italy’s Colorado Films, with several other territories pending. Advanced discussions are underway in Germany, with Spain, France and the U.S. also pending. “The U.S. deal will [...]

  • Elia Suleiman attends the screening of

    'Pleasure Is Extremely Political,' Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Says

    In a freewheeling masterclass held at the Marrakech Film Festival on Thursday, director Elia Suleiman offered as concise a mission statement as can be, defining his guiding beliefs in four short words. “Pleasure is extremely political,” said the Palestinian director, whose films have approached the fraught nature of life in the occupied territories with a [...]

  • Panel-Ventana-Sur-2019-1

    Ventana Sur: Industry Luminaries Converge, Talk Women In Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES – Ventana Sur’s Opening Windows conference series welcomed an esteemed line-up of women in film to Buenos Aires’ UCA campus on Wednesday afternoon for a panel that sought to familiarize the audience with the enormous weight of breaking into a male-dominated industry throughout the years. Among the panelists was Argentine Producer Lita Stantic, [...]

  • ALMAMULA

    Eurimages Winning Project ‘Almamula’ Stands Out at Ventana Sur’s Proyecta

    Juan Sebastian Torales arrived at this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for Latin American projects as one of the event’s most buzzed up debutants with his upcoming semi-autobiographical feature “Almamula.” In September, Torales and producer Pilar Peredo, from France’s Tu Vas Voir, pitched the project at San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, where it won the Eurimages [...]

  • Leila Kilani's 'Joint Possession' Questions the

    Moroccan Director Leila Kilani on 'New Type of Hero' in 'Joint Possession'

    Moroccan director Leïla Kilani presented the rough cut of her second feature film, “Joint Possession,” in the post-production section of Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. She spoke to Variety about the film, which she describes as a “war film, inside a family.” Kilani’s debut feature “Sur la Planche” (“On the Edge”), about two women flirting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content