The Last Vermeer
In The Last Vermeer, Guy Pearce plays Han van Meegeren, a notorious Dutch art forger who famously sold a fake Vermeer to Nazi bigwig Hermann Goring during World War II. Director Dan Friedkin centers his movie on a post-war accusation: Van Meegeren, Dutch authorities argued, betrayed his country by selling a national treasure to Goring. Van Meegeren concocted an unusual defense: He hadn't sold a Vermeer to a Nazi: He sold a forgery that he skillfully had painted. The story focuses on a Dutch Jew (Claes Bang) who, at the end of the war, serves in the Canadian army. His job: to root out those among the Dutch who collaborated with the Nazis. Initially convinced of van Meegeren's guilt, Bang's character comes to understand that the man was a gifted art mimic who had engineered a colossal fraud. Sincere and stalwart, Bang's Capt. Joseph Piller gets crosswise with a Dutch investigator (August Diehl) who's eager to put van Meegeren in front of a firing squad. The movie flirts with issues involving the complex behaviors that emerged as the Dutch tried to survive the Nazis. Piller fled into the underground: His wife (Marie Bach Hansen) made compromises to survive. Though it veers from the real story, The Last Vermeer remains fascinating for Pearce's portrayal of a man of enormous ego and moral flexibility, a character who contrasts mightily with the dour Piller. It's also sobering to know that a gifted forger can fool even those who are recognized as experts.
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