One Day You'll Understand: Interview with Amos Gitai


Paris, 1987. As the trial of Lyon’s Gestapo head Klaus Barbie plays out on television, French businessman Victor Bastien (Hippolyte Girardot) finds himself distracted from his work and increasingly obsessed with piecing together the truth about his family’s history. As he sorts through photographs, letters and memorabilia, the documents he discovers – including an Aryan declaration written by his father – tell of the fate that befell his parents during the war, and he is quick to rush to judgment. But to his frustration, his mother Rivka (Jeanne Moreau) has shuttered away her past and refuses to share any memories with him.

With tensions growing between Victor and his sister Tania (Dominique Blanc) – who defends their father’s declaration and mother’s silence – his wife (Emmanuelle Devos) and children accompany him on a visit to the tiny village where Rivka’s parents were forced to hide during the war. And as Victor finally begins to reconcile himself with his family’s fate, Rivka makes the decision to confide her past to the members of her family who may have a chance at shaping the future.


When I was 17, I went to Paris to spend some time at a friend of my father’s. I remember a dinner where a French historian was present. The historian began a defense of Marshal Pétain (chief of state of Vichy France), explaining that he acted like a real patriot because it had been impossible to directly oppose the Germans without risking the destruction of the entire country. According to him, Pétain’s solution of collaboration had been the most intelligent and efficient. Of course, I was shocked by this, but his opinion was an eye-opener.

The fate of the Jews had absolutely no place in his reasoning. He saw everything from the point of view of France and the French, but by completely excluding the French Jews.

Over the years, the French public and, of course, the French government, have changed attitudes regarding the past and the crimes of the Vichy regime. But the question remains problematic and people are still haunted by its ghosts. Jérôme Clément’s story allows for the exploration of the relationship that the French have with their past, especially since his paternal family was French Catholic and his mother’s family were immigrant Jews. A brief flashback of arrested and deported grandparents haunts the story which takes place during the Klaus Barbie trial of the 80s. It was important for me to leave open the issue of the Holocaust.

The film ends with a scene of the government’s actions to financially repair the damage done to the living family members of Vichy France victims, a wound which won’t heal.