IN THEATERS (SF) – “Diplomacy”

diplomacy-andre-dussollier-niels-arestrupDiplomacy (2014; Dir.: Volker Schlondorff)

GRADE: C

By Daniel Barnes

*Opening today at Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

Set in Nazi-occupied Paris as the Allied forces advance, Diplomacy is a one-set, two-character chamber drama (screenwriter Cyril Gely adapted his own play) about the long, boring conversation that prevented the deaths of thousands and the destruction of the city.  Niels Arestrup is the Nazi Governor of Paris, a paunchy man of assigned power used to following Hitler’s insane orders, and Andre Dussollier is the Swedish consul Raoul Nordling, tasked with talking him out of flooding the city upon retreat.  The actors are both fine – Dussollier is especially good as the twinkly-eyed but clear-headed consul – and I can see how this story could work on the stage, but the necessary tension and dynamism don’t come across on the screen.  Schlondorff and Gely reduce the drama to a two-person conversational struggle, then undermine its power by “opening up” the story to include an action subplot that could potentially render the conversation moot.