A tale of oils and fat men, The Last Vermeer paints a fascinating picture of WWII brawl involving art, the Nazis, and a dubious Dutch hero. It doesn’t always work, but Dan Friedkins’ directorial debut rarely fails to hold your gaze as it delivers a tense thriller offering an informative introduction to art history in general and the iconic Johannes Vermeer in particular.
As a final touch, he facilitates Guy Pearce one of Australia’s finest performances by playing the whimsical and flamboyant Han van Meegeren, a Dutch painter and art dealer who sold a rare Vermeer to Hitler in second, Hermann Gring. . It was this act that led Meegeren to stand trial as a war criminal. But was he really guilty of the charges with which he is accused? That’s the gist of Jonathan Lopezs’ Friedkins adaptation of The Man Who Made Vermeers. The titles of the books should give you a solid idea of the sleight of hand on display.
So it’s not too complicated to say that Meegeren was a master forger with the amazing ability to demand Vermeers unique style to create fake originals, one of which landed in Gring’s hands in exchange for full hands. of Deutschmarks. And the man nicknamed der dicke (fat Hermann) was no wiser until he learned the truth during his trial in Nuremberg. Killing millions didn’t bother Gring, but being cheated by Meegeren did. And he was hardly the only Nazi aspired to by the Dutch, hence Meegerens’ hero status.
The legitimacy of this designation is what The Last Vermeer seeks to uncover with former Dutch Resistance member Joseph Piller tasked with determining whether Meegeren was actually a war criminal. Since the film is set in the art world, it seems only natural that it is portrayed by Claes Bang, the star of two other images on the painting, The Square and The Burnt Orange Heresy. Guy aside, Bang offers another winning trick as a gumshoe unable to resist falling for her charming, awesome prisoner.
Like us, he evolves from disgust for Meegeren to admiration for good, you’ll have to find out for yourself. This was the central mystery of The Last Vermeer. But that’s not just the calling card of movies, as it proves a skillful lesson in how an artist’s talent can be used for more than self-expression. It can also be turned into a criminal enterprise which Meegeren has operated. But because he exploited her against the Nazi hierarchy, he is a hero, not a criminal.
This makes for an intriguing character study in which Pearce goes to the easel, fleshing out far beyond the limited parameters of a script by a trio of writers who downplay the drama inherent in a courtroom parable about an integrity and an extremely fluid character. Pearce chews the landscape to the point where he often comes close to stepping out of the canvas if not for its precise nuances making his Meegeren such a marvelous enigma. No wonder he has so many beautiful women falling at his feet, some of whom we meet, including his ex-wife and his mistress.
Alas, Friedkin offers the women in his sprawling cast a little more than beautiful and alluring, including Pillers’ wife (Marie Bach Hansen), whose contribution to the war effort led her to the beds of many Nazis. . The only exception is Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) as Pillers’ crack assistant. Yet even she unfortunately has little to do. She, like everyone except Pearce, is often stuck with an endorsed storyline that emphasizes awkward dialogue over character enrichment. The result is a film that often feels trainee and inorganic. Blame this on Friedkins’ inexperience.
Still, The Last Vermeer ultimately works because this remarkably true story is too good to fuck. And Pearce and Bang are doing their best to make it happen. It may not have the visual power of a true Vermeer, namely “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. But there remains a film that doesn’t just paint broad strokes by capturing a moment in Dutch history in which a skillful crook successfully staked everything by going for the baroque.
The last Vermeer
(R for violence, language and nudity.) The cast includes Guy Pearce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps and August Diehl. In theaters from November 20. Grade: B-
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