Jesse Eisenberg knows it’s rare when a film role speaks directly to you but that’s the case with his WWII thriller “Resistance.”
The film is the origin story of the world’s greatest mime, Marcel Marceau, but its primary focus is Marceau’s little known work among the French Resistance to save thousands of Jewish children from Nazi extermination camps.
Growing up in New York City, Eisenberg, 36, remembers, “I would wake up every morning and saw my mother tuning her guitar and her face painted like Marcel Marceau to go to work.”
Amy Eisenberg worked as a clown at children’s parties, “So when I saw images of Marceau, they were familiar because my mom wore the same makeup.
“More directly, the nine months I spent learning about mime,” Eisenberg added, “is that you’re evoking a feeling rather than conveying a thought.
“Just as a curious Jewish person interested in history I read about it all the time and what’s remarkable about the story is I had family who survived the war who came from near where Marcel Marceau’s family home was in southern Poland.
“To read about a Jewish hero from the same area as my family made me feel really good.
“Especially because there are so many Holocaust movies, ‘Schindler’s List’ being probably the most prominent one, and they’re not always told about Jewish heroes. They’re often people saving Jews. What is nice to find here is a guy, an artist, a hero and Jewish who is saving lives and not a benevolent outsider.”
Eisenberg discovered, “Any story of survival required a kind of miracle and a hero. So the fact that this story is about somebody who became the greatest mime in the world is almost irrelevant.
“It really could be about anybody.”
“Resistance” filmed in Prague, the Czech countryside and Germany.
“There’s one scene where my character says, ‘We can be Resistance fighters and pick off one Nazi at a time. But we can also resist by surviving and saving children.’
“We filmed that in Munich and I took my wife and 1½-year-old son to the Dachau camp and he was running around and laughing where the barracks were.
“At first I was mortified because we were in this solemn place and I didn’t want anyone distracted by this laughing child. Then I thought what we were doing was what Marcel talks about in the movie: By surviving you resist.
“I was thinking, What would the Nazis want least in this camp? That a Jewish child was running around laughing where they committed this genocide.”
IFC’s ‘Resistance’ is available Friday On Demand.