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'Left Luggage'

'Left Luggage' packs different views among some stereotypes

Saturday, May 19, 2001

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

The characters in "Left Luggage" carry a lot of psychological baggage.

Chaya (Laura Fraser), a philosophy student in Antwerp, seems enamored of revolution. Her parents (Maximillian Schell and Marianne Sagebrecht) are Holocaust survivors. A Hasidic couple, the Kalmans (Jeroen Krabbe, who also directed the film, and Isabella Rossellini), hire Chaya as a nanny for their 4-year-old son, Simcha (Adam Monty), who doesn't speak. The concierge in their building (David Bradley) is always muttering about Jews.

"Left Luggage"

( )

Opening this weekend at the Denis and Squirrel Hill theaters, was the opening-night feature at this year's Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival. Here is a capsule version of the Post-Gazette review that ran at the time.


By movie's end, Chaya learns about the value of tradition, and the Kalmans are shown to be something other than austere religious fanatics, which is how many of the characters in the film view them.

Stereotypes die hard, and this movie perpetuates a few in its own right. Sagebrecht plays the nightmare of all Jewish mothers -- criticizing her daughter nonstop, feeding everyone whether they want it or not, kvetching about her husband.

That gentleman has become so obsessed with the past -- and particularly with retrieving two suitcases filled with family heirlooms (the "left luggage" of the title) that he buried while trying to flee the Nazis -- that he talks of nothing else to a woman who doesn't want to hear it.

The film's saving grace is the relationships between Chaya and several other characters: an older neighbor (Chaim Topol) who dispenses wisdom and acts as a sounding board; Mrs. Kalman, who seems to be on the edge of hysterics at times and yet always finds an inner calm to lean on; and Simcha, who merely has to smile adorably to make a connection despite his inner traumas.

"Left Luggage" could take a cue from him.

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