In a film of multiple flashbacks and flash-forwards, Podeswa focuses more on the first of the novel’s two protagonists: Jakob is a man ‘living with ghosts’ since the rest of his family were rounded up by the Nazis, never to be seen again. He’s played by two actors: Robert Kay as the traumatised Polish-Jewish boy of the 1940s and Stephen Dillane as the abstracted adult Toronto writer from the ’60s to the ’80s. Both performances, man and boy, are highly internalised but still sympathetic and engaging. Both, too, are upstaged by the fine Serbian actor Rade Serbedzija, who is highly moving as the stoic archaeologist who saves the boy in Poland and takes him to safety in Greece and later Canada.
Podeswa is to be congratulated, too, for his restraint in the film’s (many) moments of pathos, as is composer Nikos Kypourgos for his nurturing, understated score, which helps make this ‘conversation with the past’ one of the most delicate, approachable and rewarding Holocaust movies of recent years.