• gerard van weyenbergh

Fascination of the fake


This is a true story. In the Netherlands, in the aftermath of World War II, Captain Joseph Piller was given the task of recovering works of art stolen from Jewish families. His investigation leads him on the trail of a Vermeer, sold to Goering by a certain Han Van Meegeren.

Dan Friedkin, The Last Vermeer , 2019, 1h57min. see link to the movie. on Youtube below ..

© Sony Pictures Classics

Han Van Meegeren, this failed artist, participated in all the celebrations of the Reich and made a small fortune from his canvas trafficking. Everything helps to mark his way to the firing squad. However, during his captivity, he manages to convince Piller of his innocence. In reality, a genius forger would hide in the shadow of the talentless painter: Han Van Meegeren would indeed be the author of the Vermeers he was selling. At least that's what he will plead during his trial. For this, he will have to prove to the jury that he, a painter unanimously considered mediocre, is the author of canvases authenticated as masterpieces in art history. "I just wanted to make the world more beautiful," he exclaims, "more Vermeer paintings! »Through his magnificent scythes, Han Van Meegeren also pummeled a question that torments all of us: What is the real value of our work?

Han Van Meegeren in his studio.


The cinema, on the other hand, does not know of counterfeiters. At best, he is satisfied with pasticheurs. Brian de Palma, for example, multiplied the scenes in the manner of Alfred Hitchcock. But a true Palma can be recognized and could not pass for a false Hitchcock. As for the many remakes, even close to the original, they do not fool anyone and are signed with the name of their director. The word "copy" even belongs to the official vocabulary of the Seventh Art. Because unlike the copy of a painting, that of a film remains "the film". The films shot and edited by the masters are not the object of any fetishism. They will never reach the aura of paintings or that of the manuscripts of great writers. Remarkably, Han Van Meegeren experienced the peak of his career as the cinema became increasingly important in leisure and cultural life. His sophisticated techniques are contemporary with Walter Benjamin's famous article, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility". The film that Dan Friedkin draws from this fascinating affair is nothing original by its too scholarly direction. Yet it has a certain cachet: the value of true stories.

© Adrien Gombeaud for L'oeil

At 55 years old, Dan Friedkin shoots with The Last Vermeer, his first long film. A businessman from the automotive world, he came to the cinema out of passion. He notably co-produced Ridley Scott's All Money in the World, Clint Eastwood's La Mule, and Ruben Östlund's The Square, Palme d'or 2017, which already touched on the art world. Claes Bang, who played the role of a museum curator, plays Joseph Piller in The Last Vermeer . The (2 hours) complete movie in HD: The last Vermeer