Left Luggage

Director: Jeroen Krabbe

Actor Jeroen Krabbe’s first effort as a director tells of a young, liberated Jewish woman who finds herself drawn to members of an Orthdox Hassidic family in Antwerp in 1972. British actress Laura Fraser plays Chaja, a free-spirited 20-year-old student who shares an apartment with a like-minded girl (Heather Weeks) and whose latest lover is a long-haired revolutionary. She occasionally visits her parents, who are both concentration camp survivors. Her mother is in denial and spends her time weaving blankets and baking cakes, while her father is obsessed with locationg two suitcases of family treasure he buried in the garden of a house in the city before being transported by the Germans. Actually, his quest for these missing treasures provides the film with some of its best scenes, thanks to Maximilian Schell’s touching portrayal.
Needing cash to avoid eviction from her apartment, Chaja seeks employment as a nanny in the home of a strict Hassidic family, even though she at first treats these orthodox Jews with something close ot contempt. Not one to live by the rulses of any society, she vigorously rejects the very rigid lifestyle of the Kalmans (Jeroen Krabbe, Isabella Rossellini), who have five children.
In adapting a 1993 novel by Carl Friedman, Krabbe and screenwriter Edwin de Vries have forthrightly depicted the lingering scourge of anti-Semitism, both open (neo-Nazis daub swastikas in the park where the Hassidic Jews congregate) and more subtle (Chaja’s roommate never knew she was Jewish, and is obviously taken aback when she discovers the news).

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