The Last Vermeer is the story of renowned Dutch artist Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), known best for his perfect forgeries, specifically his work copying Baroque period painter Johannes Vermeer. The tale revolves around the controversial investigation into van Meegeren’s alliance with Nazi’s during the second World War.
Protagonist Captain Joseph Piller is at the forefront of the film. Both his dedication to the case and his intense personal struggles are subtly depicted by the unemotional performance from Danish actor Claes Bang. The interest truly peaks whenever Guy Pearce is on screen. The flamboyant van Meegeren is excellently portrayed by Pearce, whose electrifying performance demands viewers’ attention. The juxtaposition of the quiet and reserved Piller, and the ostentatious van Meegeren produces a compelling dynamic between the two. Scenes are made more effective just from the presence of these two characters together, and the impact both characters leave on each other is evident and satisfying to see unfold.
The film’s atmosphere drastically changes when Piller and van Meegeren are apart from one another. Minor characters have minimal development, with most appearing two-dimensional. The antagonists of the film are at times cartoonish and exaggerated, making the impactful moments lose authenticity. Key scenes tend to feel over dramatized as well, with many scenes veering away from fact and closer to melodrama. The climax of the film in particular does not feel true to life, but definitely makes for exciting cinema.
The cinematography and colour palette are noticeably Vermeer-like. Shots are crafted to emulate the use of light that so typifies Vermeer’s works. Dramatic shadows and use of a single source of light effectively echo and imitate the technique which is at the heart of the story. Even when the film begins to decelerate and lose momentum, it is still visually pleasing to the eye, particularly to those familiar with Vermeer’s work.
Dan Friedkin’s directorial debut is cluttered and uneven. Minor characters are under-utilized, and the film becomes too theatrical for its own good. But the subject matter and the lead performances which tell the story are enough to make this a thoroughly entertaining experience.
Movie Review by Felix Baldassi-Winderlich