As someone who typically avoids war films, I was drawn to ‘The Last Vermeer’ by the combination of Guy Pearce in a lead role and the story of a Vermeer painting purchased by Nazi leader, Hermann Göring, and later found by the Allies.
Set in Europe in the days after WWII, ‘The Last Vermeer’ is loosely based on the true story of the ‘world’s greatest art forger’, Han van Meegeren. It follows the discovery of the masterpiece in a railway yard through to the eventual treason trial which could cost van Meegeran his life if found to be a Nazi sympathiser.
Amsterdam is in pieces everywhere we look, with people digging out from the rubble and Nazi collaborators shot without trial in the street. It’s a dark and messy world which the film explores as it subtly asks what kinds of moral compromise are okay in wartime?
Burdened by clunky direction from first-time director, Dan Friedkin, van Meegeren’s real life story is more fascinating than the ‘not-quite-so-true’ poetic license taken by Friedkin. It would have been a more interesting film to simply focus on van Meegeren, instead of introducing him as a secondary character half an hour into the movie.
Nonetheless Guy Pearce shines in the film as a witty, flamboyant and under-rated genius who delivers a memorable performance (despite a ridiculous set of Dali-esque waxed eyebrows).
Available on Netflix, I would recommend this film to fans of Guy Pearce or when you’re looking for a rambling, middle-of-the-week movie.