Daniel Ketchelos—Staff Writer
Nazi collusion, renaissance painters, and art forgery are typically not spoken of together unless when referencing Han van Meegeren. The Last Vermeer, released in theaters on November 20, follows the story of a struggling artist as he sits on trial for collision with the Nazi party.
Based on John Orloff’s book, The Man Who Made Vermeers, The Last Vermeer aims to tell the story of historical figure Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), a failing Dutch artist who managed to swindle high ranking Nazi officers out of millions by selling a replicated Vermeer painting instead of an original. Van Meegeren then had to prove to Dutch officials his conspiracy as illegitimate to avoid execution. The story is told through the eyes of Joseph Pillar (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew who fought with the Resistance and investigator of van Meegeren’s case. The Last Vermeer occurs post-WWII and is set in Holland. It’s purpose is to showcase the aftermath of the war for those who helped benefit the Nazi Party.
This film had potential, but overall, its performance felt lackluster. While featuring believable acting and an interesting concept, the overall storyline was not interesting. The plot moved slowly, and the first two acts were not easy to invest in. It was hard to connect with characters and moments that could have felt very dramatic fall short.
Not all the scenes in this film were bad though. The most memorable part of this film, the trial of van Meegeren, brought much needed dramatic conflict to the third act. Constant opposition to claims and previously hidden information created a better connection with the plot and van Meegeren’s character. If the first two acts had been as intriguing as the third, the film would have been more effective.
Cinematography, sound design, and editing are as typical as any modern release. There are no innovations in the filmmaking, just the experience that most other films also provide. Director Dan Friedkin accomplished the style of post-WWII Europe well. His decision to show street executions of those found guilty of Nazi conspiring exemplified a potential future for van Meegeren. The acting in this film is believable, but nothing outstanding. Lead actors Guy Pearce and Claes Bang performed well, with Guy Pearce delivering the most memorable performance. His character drove most of the storyline despite not holding the status of a main character. Pearce brought a quirky touch to his character, which worked well for a struggling artist.
This film is interesting for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially post-WWII Europe. The events portrayed are accurate and focus on the same paintings that van Meegeren forged in history.
Mainly, the lack of interest in the characters throughout the first two acts hurt the performance of this piece and might drive non-historically inclined moviegoers away. The average acting and cinematography do not accentuate any parts of this film, but there are some redeeming scenes found throughout the third act. For those not interested the events of the past, it may be best to skip seeing this.
Overall, The Last Vermeer receives a rating of 6/10.