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Lies and Whispers  

There are many cinematic tellings about the events of World War II. Some are tragic, some are heroic, some are hopeful, some are not. Most of these stories, obviously, deal directly in the years of that war, but there are also the stories of the people who are affected in some way after the fact, which are certainly worth telling. Lies And Whispers, a film from 1997, starring Gina Gershon, is one such story, detailing the lingering effects of the war on generations who were never even born during the actual war.

The film seems innocent enough at first. Gershon plays a child psychiatrist who goes to a conference in Prague. She runs into a man who offers to take her in his cab to the conference, and does not know until a few minutes later that the man is actually Czeckslovakia`s most famous dissident writer. Along the way, the two manage a few more meetings, which then grow into a relationship. Gershon meets the man`s family, including his father, who suffered torture in the concentration camps of the Nazi regime. The family seems to like Gershon, and are quite happy when the couple soon makes plans for marriage.

At the same time, Gershon wants to find out more about her family, especially her father, who recently passed away and who is of Slavic origion. The couple attempt to find records, but to no avail. Then, one day, her fiancé`s father takes a glimpse of Gershon and her father, and is horrified. It turns out that the old man in the picture, beloved by Gershon, was in fact one of the Nazi soldiers who participated in the toruture of people like the writer`s father. Which means that he will now be related to the daughter of a Nazi. Yet the fallout is not so simple, as while the old man and the husband-to-be forgive Gershon, who certainly had nothing to do with the past, it is Gershon who experiences horror, guilt and pain.

We are offered pretty fine evidence that Gina Gershon is an actual actress. The only times that she has really been noticed, apparently, is her role in Showgirls, and she also found herself in a pretty steamy little cable number called Love Matters. Both these roles were sexually charged, and part of a lurid atmosphere, and certainly didn`t attempt to show a thespian in action. And while Gina does somehow manage to get naked here as well (not an unpleasant sight to see, mind you), this film is not exactly Showgirls. Actually, it is a bit of a treat for someone like me to see her in an obscure foreign film about the sorts of issues which only Europeans seem to film well, and she makes the best of it. She has to appear in many tough moments, as she retraces the awful steps that victims and perpetrators made in concentration camps, and the numerous areas of torture. She is also drowning in guilt, shame, and horror, and is quite believable. She is the one who has to face the knowledge of being related to a Nazi killer, and is therefore the one who truly feels wounded. While her lover and his grandfather can at least separate the woman from the elder who tortured people, she cannot escape, she cannot pretend that it never happened.

While Gershon is great, and the premise of the story is interesting, I think the film should have been a lot better. This is one of those films which does not benefit from being short (96 minutes), and which instead wraps things up with a silly and sappy ending, meant to create a happy romantic ending, but instead depriving us of important information. Gershon finds herself in the former Yugoslavia (which is foreshadowed in the film`s first shot), but we don`t get any explanation for this. One minute she is in the States, the next, she is with a bunch of Kosavar children. I have a theory for what was perhaps meant to be here, mainly the idea that Gershon is making up for what her grandfather did, by taking care of children affected by a new war, a new Holocaust, created by Milosovich and others like him. Of course, this is a theory not discussed in the actual film. Instead, we get the sappy romantic ending, which is lame. I don`t want the sappy! I want Gina`s trial by fire! They missed a great opportunity to film someone as unexpected as Gina Gershon wandering around Kosovo, experiencing the ultimate mixture of guilt, curiosity, and the need to help others, in the midst of a repeat of a war which everyone else prayed would never be repeated. That film would be worthy of the Golden Palm! So while I will give this film a decent rating, for the issues it does contain, and, of course, for Gina, I am still somewhat disappointed.

David Macdonald

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