Picks and Pans Review: Forced March

updated 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chris Sarandon, Renee Soutendijk

While it's often clumsy and pedantic, this movie about a modern Jewish-American actor reenacting a story from the Holocaust has a number of virtues.

It has a point of view: It argues that the postwar generations in general and the Jewish postwar generations in particular still need to reexamine the experience of the war in a profound way. It has a subdued yet passionate performance by Sarandon—best known these days, alas, for Fright Night—as a television action-series star who goes to Hungary to make a low-budget film about the life and death (during a labor-camp march) of the poet Miklos Radnoti.

The film has an imaginatively unorthodox approach, with director Rick (The Killing Time) King cutting back and forth between present-day scenes showing Sarandon off-camera as he becomes more absorbed with understanding the character he is playing and scenes from the movie within the movie.

Part of the clumsiness involves the fact that Sarandon's father fled Hungary after the war and has never talked about Sarandon's mother or how she died. This subplot is the cinematic equivalent of a sodden dumpling lying at the bottom of a soup bowl. No help, either, is John Seitz, who plays the director of the made-in-Hungary film; he overacts painfully, though he also has the burden of such tantrumy lines as "This is my set! This is my picture! Just try to...understand."

Soutendijk, the enigmatic Dutch actress (The Fourth Man) whose smile always seems to be masking a sneer, adds some flavor, as does Can Togay, as a sympathetic Hungarian army soldier who helps Sarandon in the movie within the movie.

This movie, however, depends ultimately on an implicit debate about an idea: Have we at last seen enough photographs, books, movies and TV miniseries about the Holocaust, or do those events continue to teach a lesson that we can never study too much nor learn too well? (Not rated)

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