During his lifetime, Marcel Marceau was a mime artist who was highly valued by his audience. Writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz does it in his moving drama RÉSISTANCE – RESISTANCE becomes the linchpin of a sensational liberation operation and not only lets Jesse Eisenberg triumph in the lead role, but surprisingly also Matthias Schweighöfer. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Resistance (UK/FR/DE/USA 2020)
The plot summary
Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) is a highly talented mime artist who has dedicated his life to art. During the day he works in his father’s butcher shop, and in the evening he tours the cabaret theaters in his city in order to get closer to his dream of a great career little by little. For some time now, his heart has also been attached to the politically active Emma (Clémence Poésy), with whom he would like to be together. It is also she who convinces him of a life-threatening mission: 123 Jewish orphans must be rescued from the USA Nazis under the supervision of the brutal Obersturmführer Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer) and taken out of the country. Together with Emma, Marcel joins the French resistance in order to confront the horror of war, armed only with his art.
Marcel Marceau, also known to the audience as “Bip”, was a mime who lived from 1923 to 2007 and always performed his acclaimed stage shows in a striped shirt, with a face painted white and a battered silk hat. He had a massive impact on the public image of the tragicomic clown – and with his art numerous artists of all genres. Even in old age, he continued to appear under his alter ego until he died at the age of 84, surrounded by his family. For his true events war drama “Resistance” Jonathan Jakubowicz, who is both director and screenwriter, is moving in (“Hands of Stone”) primarily focuses on a specific event in Marceau’s life and less on its significance for art itself. That’s a shame, because over the course of the 120 minutes, which drag on at times, it turns out that the persona Marcel Marceau would be the much more exciting driving force for the story .
Clémence Poésy plays the committed Emma, who is concerned about Bip.
When Marcel Marceau took part in a liberation campaign for Jewish orphans during the Second World War, he was not even 20 years old. Nevertheless, the main role of the introverted mime is not played by a talented young actor, but by “The Social Network” star Jesse Eisenberg, who was not necessarily characterized by his reserve in films such as “Zombieland 1 and 2” or “Vivarium”. In his role as Marcel Marceau, Eisenberg still works extremely well – he congenially manages to add a rebellious sparkle to his naturally quiet attitude. As a viewer, you can always see how important the liberation campaign is to Eisenberg’s character, even without grand gestures or long-winded monologues. On a meta level, this even fits with Eisenberg as a private person, who has been doing educational work to remove taboos about mental illnesses for years and who repeatedly portrays himself in interviews as a very introverted person. He now proves in “Résistance” that embodying a character like Bip is particularly important to him. Eisenberg equally credibly expresses the blossoming of the stage, where he uses his craft like a protective shield and draws self-confidence and drive from the audience’s reactions. It’s a shame that the clowning itself plays a minor role in the film. First and foremost, “Résistance” is a war drama. Just with a clown as the main character.
“In his role as Marcel Marceau, Jesse Eisenberg works extremely well – he congenially manages to add a rebellious sparkle to his naturally quiet attitude.”
Another storyline is the relationship between Marceau and the charming Emma, portrayed with appropriate emotion by Clémence Poésy (“Tenet”). Jonathan Jakubowicz turns the budding love affair into a driving force that, on paper, never turns into clumsy and maudlin. The production, on the other hand, occasionally gets in the way of the sincerity of the drama. Cameraman Miguel I. Littin-Menz (“The Vastness of the Night”) For “Résistance”, it takes a historical cinema as a model that is normally more familiar from United Kingdom (here co-production country). Tidy, decorated shots dominate the appearance. On the one hand, this fits in with the protagonist’s theater roots, but it clashes with the dirty environment of war in which the film primarily takes place. There is also a score with its orchestral opulence by composer Angelo Milli (“Seven lifes”) pushes the emotional buttons more intensely (= more intrusively) than is actually necessary. This missing tonal unity on the production level is also reflected on the narrative level. Some lurid war action scenes noticeably disrupt the otherwise melancholic drama mood. Matthias Schweighöfer is surprising (“Army of the Dead”) as the diabolical Obersturmführer Klaus Barbie – a speech to his followers in a bar ensures that the audience’s throat tightens with every word he says.
Matthias Schweighöfer surprises in the role of Obersturmführer Klaus Barbie.
Conclusion: The film does not do justice to the fascination of the main character, the tragic clown Marcel Marceau, who is the focus of “Résistance”, even though Jesse Eisenberg plays him excellently. The same applies to Matthias Schweighöfer in a dramatic supporting role. Both stand out in a tonally half-baked war drama.
“Résistance” can be seen in USA cinemas from October 14, 2021.