The Last Vermeer Parent Guide
This is a fascinating production that successfully combines war and courtroom genres to deliver a thought-provoking story.
Parent Movie Review
It’s 1945 and the Netherlands is finally free from German occupation. Now the Dutch government is trying to rebuild the country and mete out justice (or revenge) to those who collaborated with the Nazis. Captain Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), having served in the Resistance during the war, is now tasked with finding collaborators who sold Dutch artistic treasures to the Nazi occupiers.
When Piller is given evidence that artist Han Van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) sold a painting to top Nazi Hermann Goring for a fabulous sum, Piller believes he’s on to a major case. The painting in question is by Johannes Vermeer, Dutch Renaissance master and national icon. But over the course of extensive interrogations, Van Meegeren insists that he didn’t collaborate; he swindled Goring by selling a forged painting. To defend himself in court, Van Meegeren is going to have to prove that a mediocre painter with a reputation for licentious living has the talent to successfully forge works that can deceive the art world’s most respected experts.
The Last Vermeer is a fascinating production that successfully combines the war and courtroom genres to deliver a thought-provoking story - and one based on historical events. Focusing on the aftermath of the war, it clearly depicts both the physical and psychological suffering of the traumatized Dutch population as well as their urgent need for justice. It raises questions of what constitutes justice, especially for a civilian population and it asks how people reconcile their wartime activities with the mundane nature of peacetime.
The larger questions in the movie arise from Van Meegeren’s forgeries and they ask audiences to consider their own moral perspectives. Is Van Meegeren committing a crime when he sells forgeries to Nazi leaders or is he justifiably striking back at those who are occupying and brutalizing his country? Is swindling large amounts of money from Nazis a type of rough justice or is a grotesque form of profiteering in a country where his fellow citizens are starving? In short, do the ends justify the means?
Another question hovering over the film relates to its rating. None of the content is extreme, but the film has some issues in each category – three sexual expletives, paintings of nude women (and a brief view of a naked woman posing for a painting; she’s shown from the side), and frequent scenes of smoking and drunkenness. There’s also some violence, which is not gratuitous, particularly given the context of the story. This is one of those films that falls somewhere between a PG-13 and a Restricted rating. In my opinion, older teens should be fine watching it, but it’s a bit much for 13 year olds.
Rating issues aside, the film certainly has the ability to make you think. And it will make you think about art – what it is, what makes it great, what gives it value. In the words of poet John Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” But what does it mean when, as in the case of Van Megeeren, beauty lies?Directed by Dan Friedkin. Starring Guy Pearce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release November 20, 2020. Updated November 20, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Last Vermeer
The Last Vermeer
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Last Vermeer rated R? The Last Vermeer is rated R by the MPAA for some language, violence, and nudity
Violence: A man is executed by firing squad: the shots are heard but not seen. Another man is executed, the shots are seen and he falls to the ground. A soldier makes threatening gestures with a firearm during an interrogation. Women who collaborated with Nazis are publicly scorned and their hair is cut off – this is seen very briefly. A man is threatened with having his hands broken. A man talks about being beaten as a child: a whip is briefly seen in flashback. The bombed out ruins of Dutch cities are seen. A man is punched in the face. A man tries to shoot himself in the head. A man is seen with a bloody head wound. A man is heckled and spat at by a crowd.
Sexual Content: Paintings of nude women are seen, sometimes with detailed frontal nudity. A man kisses a woman who’s married to someone else. A woman is seen posing nude in a side view that includes part of her breast and her backside. A married man kisses a woman who is not his wife. They fall asleep in the same bed but do not have sex. Women in scanty underwear are seen at a debauched party.
Profanity: The film comes in at under a dozen profanities, including three sexual expletives and a mix of anatomical expressions, terms of deity, scatological curses and minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters frequently smoke cigarettes. A man blows cigarette smoke directly into another man’s face. A man mentions seeing a vision after drinking absinthe. There are frequent scenes of social drinking. Main characters get drunk on a few occasions. A man mentions “free booze and free drugs” in a party context.
Page last updated November 20, 2020
The Last Vermeer Parents' Guide
What do you think of Han Van Meegeren? Do you think he was a collaborator with the Nazis or do you think he used his talents to fleece them? Do you think his actions were good or bad or somewhere in between?
For more information about Han Van Meegeren’s forgeries, check this out:
Essential Vermeer: Han van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers
Joseph Piller served in the Dutch Resistance during the war. You can learn more about this organization here:
At the beginning of the film, Joseph Piller reports to a Canadian military leader because the country is transitioning from military to civilian government. For more information about Canada’s liberation of the Netherlands, you can check the following links.
Canadian War Museum: Liberation! Canada and the Netherlands 1944-1945
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Liberation of the Netherlands
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This film is based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez. Van Meegeren’s forgeries are also covered in Edward Dolnick’s The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century. Frank Wynne tackles the tale in I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger.
If you are interested in more stories about art forgers, you will want to read about Elmyr de Hory. His exploits are retold in Clifford Irving’s Fake: The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time.
The Nazis pillaged Europe’s artistic treasures and Melissa Muller and Monika Tatzkow examine how Nazi greed emptied Jewish collections in Lost Lives, Lost Art. Robert M Edsel’s Monuments Men details the exploits of the British and American specialists who risked their lives to reclaim the art stolen by the Germans.
Related home video titles:
This movie dovetails with Monuments Men, whichtells the story of the allied troops responsible for tracking down the art treasures stolen by the Nazis.https://parentpreviews.com/movie-reviews/woman-in-gold">Woman in Gold, Maria Altmann sues the Austrian government to recover a painting stolen from her family after Austria’s merger with Nazi Germany.
Software engineer Tim Jenison has a theory about how Vermeer painted his dazzling works of art. In Tim’s Vermeer he documents his attempt to paint a masterwork the same way.