Friday, June 14, 2024

Farewell, Mr. Haffmann

Adapting Jean-Philippe Daguerre's play, writer/director Fred Cavayé tells the story of French Jew Joseph Haffmann (Daniel Auteuil) whose family flees Nazi-occupied France. Haffmann arranges to give his shop to his assistant, François Mercier (Gilles Lellouche), under the agreement he will return the shop to Haffman after the war. However, unable to flee, Haffman ends up hiding in the basement of his former home, with Mercier and his wife (Sara Giraudeau) agreeing to hide him, only to slowly discover the devil's bargain he has made.

Mercier begins to demand more of his former employer who he installs in the basement. First, enlisting his unwilling help in helping impregnate Mercier's wife (although the pair merely spend their time together talking), and later in charging him to use his considerable skills to craft jewelry from stolen jewels for Nazi clients who have taken an interest in the work they mistakenly believe were created by Mercier rather than Haffmann.

Mercier's jealousy, both in Haffman's talent and his relations with his wife (which never get physical despite his attempts to force them into a relationship to produce a child) is the driving force of the film along with the increased greed of the jeweler hoping to make the most of the situation he has found himself in. With Blanche (Giraudeau) never a fan of the situation, further dismayed after watching her husband enjoy the respect he's garnered from the Nazis, while taking credit for another's work, and learning just how far he will go to keep the status quo, the couple's relationship begins to deteriorate.

The intensity of the psychological drama builds as we wait to see which character will break first as the situation grows finally untenable for all parties. Filmed around the time of Covid lockdown, the empty streets and sparse cast add to the feel of a world pulling away from the trio of the greedy husband, the wife distancing herself from him, and the benefactor who has become their prisoner. Although karmic, for a tragedy set during the Holocaust, the film's ending is sunnier than you'd expect, but not for everyone.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Farewell, Mr. Haffmann
  • IMDb: link

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