Emotional Arithmetic closes Toronto International Film Festival

Emotional Arithmetic, the Toronto film festival's closing film, explores the tragic toll war can have on its survivors - even decades later

Emotional Arithmetic, the Toronto film festival's closing film, explores the tragic toll war can have on its survivors— even decades later.

Based on a book by Canadian writer Matt Cohen, the film stars Susan Sarandon as a survivor of a Jewish internment camp in France during the Second World War who has gone on to a quiet life surrounded by her husband David (portrayed by Christopher Plummer) and son (played by Roy Dupuis) in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

A flood of emotions and memories about her past confinement surface when she learns that the dissident who protected her in the camp (Max von Sydow) is still alive. She invites him to visit her, but is shocked when he is accompanied by another survivor of the camp: her first love (portrayed by Gabriel Byrne).

"There was a certain sophistication in [the film] that doesn't exist in most, rather brutal, Holocaust movies," Plummer notes.

The77-year-old actor, a veteran of countless films and TV shows who cemented his pop culture standing playing Capt. Georg von Trapp in the The Sound of Music, says he delighted in playing his part because his character injected some lightness into a dark subject.

"He did have an… acid sort of humour and I liked that about David," said Plummer.

The film is a final entry in a host of TIFF films that explored a range of issues brought on by war and conflict, both past and present.

Films like Emotional Arithmetic and festival opener Fugitive Pieces looked back to the Second World War, while titles like Brian de Palma's Redacted and Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah were among those turning a spotlight on more contemporary battles, namely in Iraq.

Emotional Arithmetic screens twice on Saturday evening, the final day of the 32nd annual Toronto International Film Festival.

Plummer, who will be in the audience at one of the screenings, says watching a film with the public is a "ghastly experience."

"I hate it. I hate it. I really hate it because there's nothing you can do about it," admits Plummer.

"Although I've done hundreds of movies, I'm still a stage actor and I know how to control an audience. If I didn't like something, I can change it in a second in front of them. And sitting there with [the film audience] … there's nothing I can do about it."

With files from the Canadian Press