Pablo Solarz’s absorbing multilingual feature film, The Last Suit, is coming to Toronto’s Cineplex Empress Walk Cinemas on August 17 for a one-week engagement and to Quebec on August 24. Unfolding in Spanish, German, Polish and Yiddish, this feel-good movie is set in five countries — Argentina, Spain, France, Germany and Poland.
Abraham Burszstein (Miguel Angel Sola), an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor from Poland, has a moral debt to settle. On the spur of the moment, he decides to travel to his birthplace in Lodz to meet the man who saved him. He’s in a grumpy mood, his well-intentioned daughters having sold his house and arranged for him to live in a retirement home. Fed up with his predicament, he buys airplane and train tickets for the long journey to Europe.
Burszstein’s odyssey is based on the experiences of Solarz’s father.
Ornery but kind-hearted, Burszstein is a talker. He talks incessantly to the taxi driver who drives him to the airport. On the plane, he has a torrent of questions for the younger passenger seated next to him. As he explains, he’s embarked on a special mission to present a new suit to a Pole he last saw after the war.
In Madrid, where he spends the night before catching a train to Warsaw the following morning, he checks into a hostel. He chats up the receptionist, Maria (Angela Molina), who’s so intrigued by him that she joins him for a night out at a nightclub. Upon their return to the hostel, he makes a disquieting discovery.
He looks up his estranged daughter, a resident of the city, but it’s an awkward meeting.
Finally, he boards the high-speed train to Poland. As he sits back, looking out the window at the passing scenery, he recalls the moment when Piotrek, his Polish friend, came to his rescue during one of his darkest hours.
On a stopover in Paris, he asks a train station clerk whether he can travel to Poland without having to cross into Germany. He’s still embittered by his mistreatment at the hands of the Germans and will not forgive them. Ingrid (Julia Beerhold), an attractive middle-aged woman who speaks Yiddish, tries to help him. When he learns she’s a German, he rudely dismisses her.
They meet again on the train. Ingrid is ashamed of her country’s embrace of Nazism, but insists that Germany has changed. Burszstein tells her that 60 members of his extended family, included his little sister, were murdered during the Holocaust.
As the train approaches Warsaw, he’s assailed by more unpleasant flashbacks. He faints and falls on the floor, waking up in a Warsaw hospital and finding himself in the care of Gosia (Olga Boladz), a sympathetic Polish nurse. He convinces her to drive him to Lodz, where Piotrek lives.
The film, jazzed up with a jaunty klezmer soundtrack, is riveting, thanks in no small part to Sola, who successfully conveys the shifting moods of a survivor who’s alternately gruff, affectionate and funny. Beerhold and Boladz also deliver touching performances.
The Last Suit ventures into emotional terrain that has been previously explored by other movies. Nonetheless, it’s alive and fresh.