What is the story about?
A soldier for the Allied Forces, Joseph Piller, is investigating a renowned Dutch artist with a mysterious past, Han van Meegeren, accused of conspiring with the Nazis. The latter claims to have sold a Vermeer masterpiece to Hermann Göring, an influential figure in the Nazi party, for over a million dollars – the highest ever price paid for a work of art in the 1940s. Piller is taken off the case even as he’s trying to put together the various pieces of an intriguing puzzle. Over time, the former soldier gathers enough evidence to prove Han’s innocence despite public sentiment not working in his favour.
The Last Vermeer, based on author Jonathan Lopez’s The Man Who Made Vermeers, is an intriguing story documenting the deceit in the art world amidst the backdrop of the volatile political climate in the aftermath of World War II. The film is based on the dubious yet colourful life of an art forger who made a fortune by swindling money from the Nazis, posturing his artworks as Vermeer masterpieces. In the garb of a courtroom thriller, the film works as a fascinating case study on opportunistic human behaviour.
Narrated through the lens of a no-nonsense righteous soldier, the film provides enough ground for the viewer to root for the male lead’s gut instinct. The riveting script marks an unlikely collision of contrasting worlds – of a soldier with a clean record striving to prove the innocence of an artist with a notorious past. Several instances humanise the lead character, be it the detachedness in his marriage after having to go underground during the wartime era or his romantic equation with a female colleague at the art gallery.
The intricacies of art forgery are explored in captivating detail during the courtroom proceedings in the second hour. The film provides adequate scope for Han van Meegeren (the art forger) to tell his side of the story too – the criticism surrounding his original work, his failure in winning the approval of an incestuous art world, the desperation for fame and quick money. The icing on the cake is the fine commentary on what Han van Meegeren could have been, had he stayed true to his artistic instincts.
The Last Vermeer is a film whose thrills/human drama could’ve been diluted amidst the fact-heavy story, at the hands of a less-capable filmmaker. The writers and the filmmaker Dan Friedkin script magic with a fine screenplay where the loyalties of its characters shift at the drop of a hat. The shades of grey in its pivotal characters keep haunting you long after the film’s over. Though sluggish to take off, The Last Vermeer is delectably staged, impeccably performed and finely written for the most part.
Claes Bang had his task cut out to play a seemingly straightforward, righteous soldier with a strained equation with his wife. The Square-fame actor does a wonderful job in lending an empathetic exterior to what would’ve been a rather reticent character on paper. Guy Pearce is fantastic as an infamous artist who claims to be the life of a party. There’s an added mystery to his portrayal that keeps the viewer guessing about his past and he’s a natural fit to play the flamboyant part with an enjoyable flashiness.
Vicky Kreips brings forth a unique charm to her part. The ruggedness, aggression in the role of the aide to the male lead suits Roland Møller well. August Diehl adds a unique style and charisma to the character of a detective. Adrian Scarborough, Susannah Doyle, Karl Johnson and Olivia Grant are cast in brief roles though they make their presence felt with the spirited performances.
Music & Other Departments
Composer Johan Söderqvist’s background score has an enviable music texture that is enjoyably colourful and equally restrained as per the needs of the narrative. Arthur Max is the unsung hero of the film for his stunning production design that does immeasurable justice in recreating the Europe of the 1940s with fabulous authenticity. Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin proves a valuable hand in staying true to the creative vision of the filmmaker and the span of the film. Writers John Orloff, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby weave a sharp narrative out of a fascinating story that was begging to be made into a film.
- Superb writing
- Wonderful attention to detail
- Terrific contributions from the technicians
- A slow start
- Sudden shifts in the narrative
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?