Movie Discussion: The Best Offer

See this movie.  It’s good.

Horrible spoilers and plot dissection below.

This movie reminded me strongly of Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  It’s a character study of a man descending into obsession and madness due to the manipulation of others.  It’s about a glacial, intricately-constructed revenge plot.  It’s also about art, and forgeries, and demonstrates that even if the artwork is a forgery, it can still have the power of art – to affect the viewer.

Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is one of the world’s top art auctioneers, a profession I know very little of, but this rich world is beautifully evoked with sumptuous sets, artworks, and fine dining in restaurants. Everything in Virgil’s life is controlled. He wears gloves because he doesn’t like touching anything other than art.  He dyes his hair. Everything is precise.  Virgil also regularly commits fraud to buff up his own collection of beautiful portraits of young women.  He’ll  knowingly mis-identify pieces at an auction and then get his friend Billy Whistler (Donald Sutherland) to bid for him.  Then he’ll pay Billy in cash for the piece and store the painting in a gallery in his apartment, hidden behind a secret wall and secured with an electronic lock.  Billy and Virgil appear to be friends, but Virgil is always dismissive of Billy’s paintings, and refuses to even look at his most recent works.

Virgil is asked by a mysterious woman to value her parent’s artworks, in a crumbling old villa.  She never meets him in person, and only talks in a shaky voice over the telephone.  Virgil learns that the woman, Claire, is an agoraphobe trapped in parent’s house, desperate to sell her artworks to prop up her faltering income.

As they continually meet to discuss the sale, Virgil finds amid the junk in the house, parts of an old clockwork device.  He takes these pieces to his only other friend, a young, womanising machinist called Robert.  Robert and Virgil are sure that the clockwork are part of a Victorian automaton, and that the entire automaton could be reconstructed if enough of the parts are discovered. Slowly, Virgil finds out more about Claire, even spying on her.  Claire is suspicious and unstable, but also hauntingly beautiful.  She encourages Virgil to stop dying his hair, to be more genuine.

The middle act of the movie follows Virgil’s obsession with Claire.  Each time he meets her, he becomes more involved, more obsessed.  The viewer’s attention is drawn to a portrait of Claire’s mother, as a young ballerina. Virgil finds more of the pieces of the automaton that Robert gradually reconstructs.  Amidst these ongoing developments, there are discussions of love and forgeries.  Billy is adamant that everything can be faked, even love, but Robert says that each forgery contains something of the artist, and is built around a seed of genuine emotion.

During the last act of the film, Claire finally leaves her house when Virgil is beaten up by a gang of ruffians.  She escorts him to hospital, and then, Virgil finally persuades him to move in with her.  Her agoraphobia is conquered.  Virgil is finally happy; he’s in love.  He has a dinner at one of his expensive restaurants (previously, he always dined alone) with Robert, Claire and Robert’s girlfriend, calling them all ‘his family.’

In most tragedies, there’s a place where the narrative could just stop, where it looks like it will be a happily-ever-after ending for all involved.  This was that point in the movie.

In the final act of the film.  Virgil announces his retirement; he’s going to spend the rest of his life with Claire and his paintings.  He even shows Claire his secret gallery, where she can easily see the password to the secure area.  Virgil goes to London to do one last auction and then returns to his house – finding Claire and all of his paintings are gone, except for a single painting of a ballerina.  There’s a message from Billy on the back; it was Billy’s painting all along.

At a single stroke, Billy is revealed to have masterminded Virgil’s relationship with Claire and used her to steal Virgil’s collection.  Virgil is unable to go to the police, given the duplicitous measures that he acquired most of his paintings with.  Billy’s friendship was a forgery.  His hatred of Virgil was couched in a few significant exchanges where Virgil refused to accept Billy’s art as ‘art’.  The enormity of the scam, where Virgil’s relationship with Claire was manipulated and constructed piece by piece, like the automaton, was art in itself; genuine from Virgil’s perspective, but an elaborate forgery from Billy, Claire and Robert.

While this betrayal seems inevitable, even obvious, the film does an excellent job of distracting the viewer by focusing purely on Virgil’s internal world.  If anything, Robert appears  a more suspicious mastermind than Billy, who seems to be showing genuine friendship to Virgil.

There are two points in the movie where both Billy’s and Robert’s friendships with Virgil is strained, almost tested, where the forgery is exposed.  In one auction, Billy is too slow to bid for a piece that Virgil was after, and it gets bought by another bidder.  Virgil is livid, calling Billy ‘too old’ and ending their bidding relationship.  Later in the film, Billy apologises by personally buying the artwork that Virgil missed out on.  Virgil forgives him and Billy promises to send him one of his painting, one that is genuine art.  There’s a similar scene where one of Robert’s girlfriends warns Virgil that there’s something fishy about Robert and that he keeps talking about Claire. Virgil ends their relationship and takes the automaton back, but later forgives Robert and asks him to continue the work.

Virgil’s strongest relationships appear to be with the things he can buy – he buys female portraits, and has a strong, emotional relationship with them. He has a business relationship both with Billy and Robert, but is always telling them personal information, blurring the boundaries, as if his cash will guarantee their friendship as well as their loyalties and services.  This outpouring of personal information to Billy would have certainly laid the bones for the scam.  Virgil also regularly bribes Claire’s groundkeeper to get the old man to open up to him.  And finally, Virgil also pours money into his relationship with Claire – by buying her make-up, clothing, and then finally an engagement ring.  By Virgil’s internal logic, his relationship with Claire is genuine.

But everything was forged, except for Virgil’s emotions.

At the end of the movie, Virgil is withdrawn and in a nursing home; he’s lost everything and unable to move on, betrayed by an art he thought was genuine.

241 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: The Best Offer”

  1. This is such a brilliant, well crafted movie. My only left confusion is Roberts and Virgil’s relationship. Does this mean that Billy had set everybody up? That Robert and Claire were both actors, since the Claire from the shop across the Villa had mentioned that she hired the house for actors.. was everybody else then involved as actors playing along? What about the groundkeeper? Was he an actor too?

    And something else I was confused about was the robot contraption that Robert had built, I’m not sure I understood the meaning of it?

    1. Hi Linda, i think the groundkeeper was an actor too, do you remember that part where he found some pieces and he asked if he could leave them in the car, that was when he put the ‘GPS’ tracker on his car.. firist time commenting on a film aswell

  2. Hi Linda,

    My take on it was that indeed everyone was in on it, including Robert, with Billy as the grand mastermind. I think Robert was a genuine machinist with a talent for constructs, which was supported by an earlier conversation he had with Virgil. He was most likely recruited by Billy, possibly for money rather than revenge.

    I like your reminder that the real Claire rented out her villa to actors, which certainly does imply to me that the groundskeeper was also an actor.

    I think that the automaton was a forgery; Virgil kept finding it piece by piece, like a breadcrumb trail each time he saw Claire. It was Robert that put the automaton back together. The automaton reconstruction gave Virgil the incentive to keep visiting Claire and Robert, which enabled them to hook Virgil deeper into the con. The automaton also symbolised the elaborate building of the con, piece by piece. The point of the Victorian automatons was to convince people it was a real mechanical man, but it wasn’t really. It was also pointed out earlier that there would likely be a dwarf in the middle of the automaton so it could play chess and so forth, just like there was a real man (Billy) at the centre of the con.

    1. No, I don’t think that the movie was meant to be that sort of science-fictional. The automaton is a know Victorian construction; anything else and the movie would start crossing over with Doctor Who!

  3. Hi everyone…no doubt that the housekeeper was an actor ..don’t forget that he accepted money under the table,giving to Virgil all the fake information according to their tricky plan,making him believe this story about Claire’s ”illness”.
    But what about the automaton?Was it real?
    They wanted for sure to capture the attention of Virgil so that he would visit the villa very often in order to collect all the missing pieces…i guess also that they knew that Virgil studied Vaucanson automaton when he was a student…so did Robert already knew how to connect all the pieces?Did the actors owned this precious construction?
    Imagine if this automaton belonged to the ancestors of the short lady across the villa?This would fit perfectly the scenario which says that a little man could fit into the bottom of the automaton….but this would be so good to be true i guess!!!

  4. What with all the way twist endings are now exploited nearly everywhere, it keeps getting harder and harder to actually surprise genre savvy viewers. They did it though, so hats off to the writer for that.

    1. I disagree. I caught the last 30m of this film. I immediately thought the fake Claire was setting Virgil up. I caught the tone in Billy’s voice when he said, “You never believed in me.” The looks exchanged while the four of them were dining out and all were sitting at the table. No surprise in it for me at all. The whole concept of forged art made it clear what was going to happen both art-wise and relationship wise. Perhaps that means I have become far too cynical about life but maybe its because no one comes up with true mystery anymore. Its all borrowed and can be read or watched by a multitude of sources.

      1. Well if you only caught the last 30 minutes, of course you’d know it was a scam right away. It’s not fair to critique a film unless you’ve watched and paid attention to the whole thing, start to finish. The WHOLE thing was very intriguing, the scam slowly unraveled to the point of its obviousness – unfortunately tuning in to only the end would lend the “obviousness” greater weight.

        1. I also found Claire to be fake from the moment she called him in the opening scenes. The Pleasance character was obviously not to be trusted, as he said as much to The Rush character several times.

          The Rush character was too together and reserved for decades to fall apart emotionally. He would have more likely become more bitter at the fake friends and given up on love, but he would not have been in a home for an extended time.

        2. I read through many of the comments and found them generally insightful. I made the mistake of watching the film on Netflix in a couple sittings and somewhat lost the flow. But Billy would have been the instigator of the plot, as he was the only person who knew of Virgil’s ill gotten collection. The odd party is Robert. What was his purpose from the perspective of a plotter? Of course, he facilitates Virgil’s involvement with Claire. But what was the assurance Virgil would contact him about all of this? Virgil apparently had used him before on restoration, so it was only a possibility that Virgil would go to him with the automaton parts, and further open up to him about the matter of Claire. These plots generally have internal inconsistencies, and a glaring one here was Robert’s girlfriend going to Virgil about Robert obsessing over Claire. This indicated not a scam but rather that Robert might undercut Virgil romantically. The dwarf Claire was an interesting element, sitting there ambiguously repeating numbers in divers scenes and only at the end fitting into the plot.

  5. I just watched the Beast Offer and I have to say I haven’t seen anything quite likely last few years. The plot is really good and directing is a master piece. You don’t focus on one thing all the time rather been led to the end.

    BTW didn’t get the last part with the picture from Billy and started looking online for answers and here we go 🙂 Thanks once again.

    1. He was waiting for Claire. He had a small sparkle of hope that she has feelings for him regardless of her role in the scam. He thought when she told him about Prague and the bar that she secretly pointed him to the meeting place where they will meet after everything is over (after they rob him).
      It seems that he never stopped believing that at least a tiny part of the whole scam was truth, and that’s why he ended up in asylum – he never wanted to admit to himself that everything was fake.

    2. That was my question as well. Did he think Claire had given him a clue. She really did seem to have feelings for him before they all disappeared.

  6. Hi Belinda and all,

    Great movie, great synopsis and comments.

    Patti and I are left with the question of where
    did those very expensive furnishings come from?

    Thanks for any insights,

    Stan and Patti

    1. This is my question too. And I think this is the only flaw in the scenario. The items should have been authentic in the first place.

      Of course at the end Claire says she does not want to sell them. But even in that case if they items were authentic and borrowed the persons that pulled the scam could be traced.

      1. I find a lot of things in the plot unauthentic. It is very likely that at least one person would have attended more than one auction and seen Pleasance at them! They would have said ‘ That guy bid the highest at the last auction, too!”

        If fake Claire didn’t have agoraphobia and was going in and out of the house, why did the people in the restaurant act like they had never seen her before? They were regulars there , right across from the villa. Why didn’t real Claire tell Virgil she was the owner sooner? Did the restaurant people think he was just visiting ‘actors’ at the villa? They also could have seen some of the paintings getting moved outside the villa

      2. The house and contents belonged to the real Claire, the tiny woman in the pub across the street. She rented it out to ‘film ppl’ so when she noticed items being removed, thought it was all part of the crew using the house. That’s why the fake Claire demanded that she had changed her mind and wanted everything put back…bc no one wanted to steal Claire’s household treasures, only to make it appear as though fake Claire was the true heir

    2. Everything WAS authentic and belonged to “Dwarf Claire”, they were a part of the house as she rented them out. The actors used great art to steal greater art from Virgil. As renters, Dwarf Claire could trace them, so while they lived and worked among all her art, they couldn’t steal it or, in the end, sell it either.. hence Big Claire “deciding” not to sell.

      1. The real Claire said 3 deliveries, meaning they filled the Villa 3 times. No, the furniture was not hers. Had Virgil not been such a thief and snob, he would have caught on earlier, especially when Billy told him even love could be forged. Or when Roberts girlfriend mentioned in a jealous rant about Claire. His sad glance at the Police Station was so great. It said so much without a word.. He did not even know his lifetime assistant was married and had kids. I dislike selfish people and can’t feel sorry for them. At the beginning of the movie, a painting had the same circular object that Virgil uses at the hospital for therapy. I love foreshadowing. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love actor Claire’s scathing look at Robert at the restaurant. I think she did begin to feel bad about what they were doing, but it was too late. Well done. Lastly,Claire mentioning Prague was her one honest anecdote in her forgery, and Virgil knew.

      2. Keri got it right — the furniture was either Billy’s/fake Claire’s or rented, because when real Claire was asked, she mentioned a truck came delivering the furniture 3 times and another truck came to take it away 3 times. Plus, the first day the crew is in the villa taking inventory, Virgil comments on some damage one of the pieces of furniture had sustained when being moved, and the crew denied having moved it.

        Also, even though the plot revolves around art being faked, the automaton was authentic. Billy would’ve known from his years being Virgil’s partner that he had done his thesis on Volkenson. What greater way to drive home his point than with something he treasures so much?

        As someone previously brought up, the others in the pub never noticed fake Claire, but they didn’t have a photographic memory like Claire did. However, one patron was sure he had seen fake Claire leaving at least once. Plus, the other patrons never set by the window watching things outside like Claire did.

        Here are the questions I have that I’ve yet to figure out: was real Claire’s actual name Claire Ibbetson? The villa, being as old as it is, would probably have been known colloquially as Ibbetson Villa, hence fake Claire using the name. Were Robert and fake Claire Billy’s children? The first time we see the painting that is identified at the end as Billy’s, fake Claire says that it’s a portrait of her mom. However, the woman in the painting looks very similar to fake Claire, leading me to wonder whether it’s actually of her or if she looks exactly like her mom. Further, the first time Virgil hides in the villa, fake Claire does a stretch that looks very similar to one done by a ballerina.

        Finally, the clockwork gears in the cafe at the end was perfect symbolism. I really wish more movies took so much care at the minor details as this one did.

    3. I was a movie set decorator for many years and most major cities have prop rental houses, as well as antique stores that rent furnishings / antiques/ paintings/ art to movies. It would cost you about 20K a week to outfit that house the way it was decorated, a fraction of the decors original worth. As long as you return everything in one piece, all you pay is the rental price – which would easily be covered by the sale of one of the lesser paintings in Virgils collection.

    4. There was the scene when Virgil was enraged at Claire. He mentions her furniture and cheap bric a brac. It was authentic but not high end antiques. All of it was rented by Billy, who had wealth, thanks to his shady deals with Virgil

  7. In the final scene in the restaurant, Virgil is still waiting for Claire. He keeps remembering the sex (as authentic love) , and the scene “no matter what happens, I truly love you”. He tries to capture the sentiment by going to the restaurant — all with the hope she will go there once.

    1. Sarah was probably not in on the con, but likely figured it out, hence why she tried to warn Virgil, and likely why she started a fight with Robert outside his shop one night while Robert and Virgil were talking inside – I mean, she probably came to check that he wasn’t with another girl, why would she still fight with him when she saw he was with Virgil, right?

    2. I loved Brush with Fate, a story of a Vermeer painting.. an unknown Vermeer hidden away from the world, owned by a woman (Glenn Close) who has traced it’s history and discloses it to someone she thinks she can trust… she is wrong. P. S., everyone was in on Virgils downfall, Sarah was part of the charade.

  8. Everything in this movie was so beautifully tight with the only dubious element being mentioned earlier.
    Where did all the expensive furnishings and art works in the villa come from ?
    They had to have all been real or Virgil would certainly have known.

  9. Was the Clock Pub in Prague? Claire had said this was the only place she had been to and liked so much. Was Virgil hoping she would come back to the that place?

    1. Yes, the film ends with Virgil waiting for Claire in the Clock Pub. There seems to be some confusion about whether Virgil ends up in the Insane Asylum, but he leaves after remembering the Clock Pub. So, I take this as a hopeful sign that Virgil will again see his Clair.

  10. Love, love, love this movie. I do think Claire did fall in love with Virgil but had to keep up pretense with the con. Anyway I hope so. I do think this con was started by Billy and Robert. Then they hired Claire for the role. Oldman’s assistant was not part of the con and I am sure Sarah was not part of it either. Remember when Sarah told Virgil he should be careful with Robert. The ending is way too sad to deliberately destroy Virgil. He winding up having a massive emotional breakdown. What a cruel thing to destroy someone. And I think Billy and Robert were surprised how hard that Virgil fell in love with Claire

    I wish there is a sequel/Part 2 and have Claire come back to him. I am a romantic.

    1. Great point. Why would fake Claire bother having sex with him (isn’t that going above and beyond? YES!) and run out to help him when he was injured if she didn’t care? She wouldn’t have.

      1. Why would fake Claire bother having sex with him? You mean, scamming Virgil out of a large fortune in oil paintings wasn’t enough motivation? She had to keep the “sting” real, right up until the end: clearing out the storeroom. Faking enjoyable sex was a small price to pay.

    2. G. Hawthorne Jan. 24, 2014
      If you loved “The Best Offer” you would love Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”.
      Such a delight to contrast the pair. If you want the happy ending it’s Richard Quine’s “Bell Book and Candle” which reunites Hitch’s Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.

      People who say that they don’t make movies like they used to are right. Some of our thoughtful film makers produce much better movies.

    3. G Hawthorne, yes, I too think actor Claire becomes truly emotionally connected with Virgil. The scene when a woman enters Robert’s shop to collect an improved gps for her “runaway aunt” -was that really for actor Claire? This reasoning accounts for the high number of times real Claire counted her leaving the villa, she was really trying to run away from this scam. And this could be why the locks suddenly were suddenly changed. I am still uncertain whether Billy and actor Claire were romantically involved ever, but by him leaving the portrait of “her” to Virgil signifies that he was finished with her too. Virgil purchasing a cell phone plays a role, it was an unexpected surprise to Billy and his plan. And it allowed emotions to thicken. But the scene where actor Claire is found hiding up in the attic baffles me a bit. Oh there is so much to this movie, it has captivated me like none other… And were the “voice on the phone Claire” and actor Claire two different people?

      1. Thanks for great elaboration. What you wrote actually seems to me like one of the best explanations written in here and I very much agree on your thoughts. 🙂

      2. She had gone out while Virgil went to visit which was a mistake, and had to come up with a believable scenerio for Virgil to believe.

  11. what a great movie. I just finished watching it. great mise en scene compare to any other mysterious movies last 3 yrs. I just can’t hold my curiosity so let me ask. When Virgil sneak on Claire for the first time, do you think claire purposely show her bottom by sucking her feet so maybe she can seduce him? she knew that he was watching her hehind the statue

    1. Traduce me

      Creo que cuando Virgil se esconde detras de la estatua por segunda vez, Claire es advertida de que el no se fue probablemente por billy. Si te fijas nuevamente en esa escena a Claire la llama el “director” a ella se le cae algo y supuestamente se lastima, pero no parece lastimada! creo que despues de ese llamado ella sabia que el estaba ahi!

      1. Traduccion/Translation
        I think that when Virgil hides behind the statue the 2nd time, Claire is warned that Virgil has not left, perhaps by Billy. If you watch the scene again, the “director” calls Claire, then she lets something fall y supposedly gets hurt, but she doesn’t look hurt – I think that after that phone call, Claire knew Virgil was spying on her.

  12. Claire was in on it hook line and sinker. Actors don’t just have sex with strangers. I was confused by the locations. His new place at the end and The clock restauant look as though they are in old Europe, like Prague as someone suggested. But the restaurant was titled in English “night and day” and the cars wer parked on the left side of the road. In fact I’d like to know All of the locations. Some auctions were in euro some in pounds. I think he is supposed to live in Italy, but almost everyone spoke english without an accent.

    1. The Night and day cafe is located in Prague. We walks on the old town square and after he is infront of the cafe. Probably because everything is in english, they wanted it to have an english name:) i can probly walk that streets and look for whats really at the place 🙂

    2. Having sex with him is going above and beyond faking something, and was totally unnecessary. That is what makes people think she may have had actual feelings for him. She did not have to have sex with him to gain his trust. He already trusted her.

  13. I feel as though Claire did actually fall in love with him. In the scene where she says, “No matter what may become of us, know that I do love you,” I think that she feels sorry for him. She knows what is actually going on but isn’t able to hold in her remorse.

    But whenever he showed Claire his secret room, I knew what was probably going to happen. When Virgil is talking with Robert and admits that he’s the only one that truly knows all of his personal business, I had my suspicions. The person she was talking to on the phone was probably Billy/Robert.

    1. You gave me an “Aha!” moment – she would always refer to the person on the phone as “Director”. Knowing she’s an actor in hindsight, that makes a lot of sense, and probably means it was likely Billy wanting an update on what was happening with Virgil.

  14. Several points: (1) the artwork and furniture in the villa was hired. The dwarf Claire describes the furniture coming and then going. Explains why the fake Claire has to stop any auction from proceeding. (2) Billy doesn’t “steal” the paintings in the secret room because officially he bought them at the auctions so he owns them as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Virgil treated Billy as his minion when it becomes clear that the player has been played. Loved the movie. Only part I didn’t like was how young the fake Claire is (and too thin which made her look even more childlike).

    1. Good point. Yes officially the paintings were Billy’s property, but Virgil always paid double or whatever Billy thought fair.
      I don’t know if you’re making it sound like he deserved it, but in his defense, he never meaned any wrong by his despise about Billy’s art. It wasn’t personal. He just didn’t see “art” in them. And the proof that it wasn’t personal is that he analysed the fake Claire’s mother painting and said it wasn’t valuable.

    2. Thanks for that… I assumed Dwarf Claire owned everything, but I remember the “furniture coming and going part” so that makes more sense… But then, the paintings on the wall – what about that?

  15. His friend that helped him get the paintings had to be in on it because how would any one had known that he was stocking up on so many paintings and the value of them. He was the one who hired the actors and paid for the items that was in that house to be auctioned off. Who else had the money for it?

  16. Thanks to everyone who clarified the plot summary. Now i get it!
    Really enjoyed this movie. They just don’t make these very often. The score by Morricone was excellent, the acting superb, excellent photography etc. Amazed how many American critics panned this film.
    Henry thanks for your take on the hiring of the actors who brought Virgil crashing down.

  17. I loved the movie. A masterpiece. You can feel sorry for Virgil, but on the other hand, remember, he had a fixation with the portraits of women, but feared a “real” personal relationship with them. Also, he would break the law and the moral code of the art world by buying them from Billy, his own contact. Revenge by Billy? Yes. But also the catharsis whereby he was purified of his flaws. Pride comes before a fall. He had the emotional meltdown, but I believe the movie shows that he survives and even has hope at the end when he waits in the restaurant. His and Claire’s genuine love saved him from complete destruction. Love never fails. All else is temporal. Love is eternal.

    1. I don’t think that he is saved by hope and love. The way i understood it, the last scene was a forgery of his deranged mind at the psychiatric clinic. He never escaped from there. He is still ill. He had a completely meltdown, because he was so emotionally invested in both Claire and the paintings. Having shielded himself all these years from risk, love, and relations with people, he gave his all in this late years’ new found love. and because he invested in completely he was also destrye completely.

  18. I’m pretty sure that it was Billy who stole the painting, if not, who would? Who else knew that Virgil had a collection of valuable paintings? And I’d like to add something on what Carolyn said in the other comment:

    “Billy doesn’t “steal” the paintings in the secret room because officially he bought them at the auctions so he owns them as far as the rest of the world is concerned.”

    Exactly. Officially the paintings are his but, Virgil’s keeping them and pays Billy instead after the auction. So, if HE did(which I’m pretty sure he did) steal the paintings, wouldn’t it be a huge win for him? Virgil pays him, and he gets the painting. He gets both things for free.

    1. Nothing, really – it was just a plot device. In the last act, the real Claire provides information about how many times the mansion has been rented, how many times fake Claire had been in and out of the place (showing the the agoraphobia was never real), etc.. The number strings she rattled off in previous scenes, then, were shown to be responses to questions others had posed to her, providing background to substantiate the barkeeper’s later statement that she never forgot anything and so, making legitimate the statistics she proffered regarding the history of the mansion.

    2. At the beginning she was calling out the score on the pad-man video game a patron was playing in the background. She could deduce the score by the sounds of the game.
      Like Virgil gathering up his art.

  19. I really enjoyed the movie.
    Just an answer to the question regarding the restaurant in the end.
    It is really in Prague, very nice pub. If some of you guys is in Prague and wants to go there, let me know:-)

  20. hi everybody, I wonder Virgil ended up in the hospital and was remembering the rest or the cafe was last place he appeared after hospital?

    1. I believe the whole “Prague” scene, (train, apartment, the square, the cafe), was only played out in his broken mind. Virgil is still in a catatonic state at the nursing home even as he waits in the cafe for Claire, forever.

  21. Great film!
    As i see it Billy whether he wanted it ot not, he changed his friend’s perspective of life(and thats exactly why Billys work is the ultimate work of art), as after the shock and the madnness Oldman had to endure, we see that he finally (last scene in day and night) looks as if he decided to leave all of his old miserable,no emotion life behind him and move on, to the only thing that mattered after all to his life, Clair. He counts on the saying(there is always something real…) and he hopes that clair truly loves him. ALSO Clair had no reason to tell him about night and day other than personal love, and we all remember what she said about no matter what happens she would love him. Oldman remembers all of that and at the end he waits for Clair to show up. He doesnt know when but he knows he will.
    Actually the movie has a happy ending, as we see that the director presents oldman at the end with a positive side(he is shaved, he looks great ,good looking, the music is happy in the bar), which means he decided to use biily’s work for his best. And thats the exciting thing about the movie.That art always changes you . Billy’s art changed Oldman for the best, even though his whole private collection of art didn’t in all those years. We might even say that billy did it because he loved oldman(from billy with love behind the painting). probably he didn’t care about the money of the collection. Oldman at the end buy’s a super expensive apartment which means he doesnt need money and also, billy probably doesnt care about the collection . After all , Oldman is a better, more honest, deeper, full of sentiments and more human. Billy’s is an artist.He played with his friend sentiments as if he painted a potrait. He may did it by hate or by love. But it doesnt matter. What matters is the transformation of oldman as a whole different person.

    1. This makes a lot of sense, especially if you remember a comment Billy made earlier in the movie about how Virgil always wears gloves; I don’t remember the comment exactly, but I felt it was more about pity than anything else.

    2. Bravo Alex! This was the best explanation I read about the movie. I have to say that I was looking for proper words to say the same and I suddenly found yours. That’s great.

  22. Now as for the game that was going on, everything was fake, even though the valiante-collector-old-lady-buyer(so that billy can come back with it and gain his friend’s trust so that the shock at the end is even greater).
    But the movie isn’t about the hidden secrects, plot etc!!
    The director did a great job, as he made the audience feel the same things oldman did, so at the end we all felt the same way oldman did!!
    So for exmaple when billy came back with the valiante, the audience felt affectioned because Oldman did. Also,the audience ”fell in love” with clair because of the way she was presented by bill(director) and was anxious to meet her!, as axactly was oldman.
    so at the end we all felt how it feels to be betrayed.

  23. Hello. Thank you to all of you to clear my mind. I watched the movie a couple of minutes ago and I need answers and then I came here.

    An amazing master piece this movie is. I enjoyed so much. I love art so much. The cast was FANTASTIC, well directed. I must watch it again to understand better. I totally recomend this movie 10/10.

    Only one question: the “director” was Bill right? Like someone mentioned in the previous comments.

  24. Still there are some missing pieces in my puzzle. Who is the director that keeps calling Claire during the movie? Might be Billy? Also Virgil states that he knows Robert for couple of months (3/4 more exactly). Did they planned this is such a quick manner? Also, Robert asks Virigil (in a joke) if he would ever exchange the vaucson android for Claire. But Virigil knows Billy for such time and he doesn’t know nothing about his personal life? I think he might have some ideas from where to start finding him. Then there is the scene where Virgil gets beaten in the street, and we see the real Claire using the phone, but in the end the fake Claire is the one who goes into traffic and asks for help. So who the small Claire was calling?

    1. Hi, Jean!

      Billy is the director who calls Claire throughout the film.
      while Virgil may state that he’s known Robert for a few months, the authentic Claire from the cafe tells Virgil towards the end that she’s seen the actress for about 2 years leaving and entering the house. Thus indicating that this plan has been in motion for quite a while.
      As for your question about Virgil getting beaten in the street, the real Claire tries to warn him of the attackers from inside, then she proceeds to dial the phone, as you pointed out. The authentic Claire was calling the police for help. However, the other “Claire” was talking to Virgil, who called her from the street, saying he was outside. She ran out to get him, but it was the real Claire who actually called the police.
      As you’ve also said, “But Virgil knows Billy for such time and he doesn’t know nothing about his personal life.” While it is true that Virgil has known Billy for a while, I am still confused about your question. First, it should be “…he doesn’t know anything about…” sorry, just wanted to point that out. Also, to what is your question referring? Which part in the scene makes you question the extent of Virgil’s knowledge toward Billy’s personal life? Let me know, if you’d like. I’d be happy to help! 🙂

  25. I just watched this a second time and my opinion on the ending has changed. I initially thought Virgil cracked and then pulled hisself together to go to Prague. But now I think he cracked up after he completely lost hope. The last few minutes was a recap of everything that happened once his paintings were stolen. They were all actors and played Virgil like a fiddle. I do believe Claire fell for him and offered him some bit of herself to hold on to knowing what they were about to do to him. The furniture was probably Billy’s and he probably borrowed from friends too – Billy had money too. This movie was really well done and I am so glad I went to see it at the theater. This movie and HER were my favorites this year. Thx to everyone who shared comments – I enjoyed reading different theories about this movie.

  26. Just saw that movie and I absolutely loved it. Thanks to all of you I could understand more clearly the end because it was all a bit hard to understand, although that’s what made his charm.. But there’s something that I don’t get.. The ballerina painting. Claire says that it was her mother who was painted by her father if I recall correctly and we can clearly see the ressemblance of the painting with Claire. As we learn at the end that it was Billy who painted it, does it mean that Billy is actually Claire’s father or did he just maybe inspired himself from Claire and painted it on purpose for the whole scam.. That’s the only thing I’m not sure about..

  27. Watched the movie the other night and really enjoyed it. A lot of comments here helped me put the entire puzzle together. I agree with someone’s comment earlier that the age of fake Claire did not fit. I assumed her elderly parents both died of old age and left the entire estate to her. If my understanding is correct, it would have made more sense to me if she was about 20 years older.

  28. The Claire who kept reciting numbers is the REAL Claire. The people in the Villa were all actors, hired for the scam (by Billy) – at least that’s how I understand it. I’m not sure if the fake Claire actually does fall in love with Virgil or if that was just acting on her part. If she truly fell in love with him, why did she take off with Robert in the end? Isn’t that what happened? I can see why Billy concocted this plan to have Virgil’s artwork stolen, anger and resentment over not having his own artwork acknowledged… Virgil less than ethical way of acquiring those paintings, etc.. but why did it never occur to Virgil to flip the painting of the dancer around to see the writing on the back? He could have done it at any time during the course of his visits to the fake Claire.

    The part that I’m still confused about is whether Virgil ends up in the asylum after the robbery and before the move/visit to Prague or after?

    Great movie either way.. the kind that makes you think about it for days afterwards!

    1. Hi,
      he never did flip the painting around because it never occurred to him yet.. he did looked at the back of the painting after his last auction and Billy saying goodbye and he’ll send him his painting.. this painting is also saying that all this was Billy’s plot..
      That’s what i think 🙂

  29. I don’t know if somebody talked about it, but according to me Sarah was also an actor. Remember when the lady with the short blonde hair came in his store and she wanted to kiss him? He seemed to be feeling weird of having her there in the store while Virgil was there too. Later in the movie, we see them too dining in a fine restaurant, but we think that he is in a relationship with Sarah.
    Second, was is the point of Sarah going to see Virgil to tell him she has issues with Robert and that he keeps talking about a Claire? (Claire isn’t her real name so why would he uses this name if he knows her…) In that part of the movie I was kind of confused, if I have issues in my relationship the first persons I’ll talk too is my friends…not somebody I barely know.
    Anyhow, awesome movie, loved it!

  30. Great movie, I’m amazed the critical ratings online are so bad!

    My take is that Billy may have been the boyfriend that “claire” mentions. She said her first and only boyfriend was older when discussing the car accident. The first time Virgil spies on her, he overhears her having a conversation with someone, where she asks “are you jealous?”

    she is in on the scam with Billy and I don’t think its important if the others are also part of the scam or just actors. Most likely they are just actors, as implied by the real Claire the midget savant. I think the actor Claire just offers him those words that she will always love him as a way to offload her guilt at what she is doing.

    I feel the painting of the “mother” as a ballerina is also a fake, simply done to resemble the actress Claire.

  31. I believe that the restaurant in the last scene was the restaurant in which was owned by Robert/billy/fake Claire… As it was full of gears, and the automan is primarily built on gears. As the movie said “every great forgery they leave a piece of themselves” or something like that. And I believe me Oldman did research and found that place but in still hopes that “Claire, would be there”

  32. Thanks for all the comments of interpretaion of unclear senarios.
    I enjoyed this movie very much! And with beautiful haunting music this movie conveys its feel. And I disagree these known critics low ratings of this movie. They don’t even seem to understand as much as of the people who commented on this site.
    The little real genius Claire says it all at the end.
    And I think the last scene of ‘Day and Night’ restaurant is recap of memory of Vigils.
    He is sadly and completely ruined with broken hearted. The last hope of he might encounter Claire again at the restaurant did not happened.
    His miserable life lingers on in short sweet memory with semi comatos.

  33. I think that the painting of the ballerina could easily have been signed later by Billy, just before he gave it to Virgil.
    When Virgil was beaten up, I thought at first that he had hired the thugs himself – it just seemed too convenient that it happened right after the conversation with Robert about trying to get Claire out, and Robert telling him to be careful not to rush things. Once the scam was revealed (well, we all knew there was a scam or theft coming, just not how it would play out), I then thought that the beating was part of the scam. There had to some sort of crisis or ‘event’ to make Claire change so dramatically. This event had to have been staged.
    One interesting personality trait of Virgil’s that Claire mimicked was the sudden reversals in trust and lashing out in anger at those he had trusted.
    There were several scenes where the players were able to secure his trust by refusing his money, or telling him that money wasn’t important in their relationship – that they weren’t using him.
    But he toyed with the feelings of others and acted above them – surely something that would bring some simmering resentment. I think it was made clear that Billy was hurt by Virgil’s highhanded dismissal of his art.
    I think that Claire had no interest in meeting with Virgil later – mentioning the café in Prague was just her personal mark in the forgery – something from her personal life.
    And yes – in the end, Virgil had his own crisis and rebirth, much like the rebirth he wanted for Claire. He was transposing his desire for renewal onto Claire, and when that disappeared, he was able to find his own way forward.

  34. I liked how we were told by Robert that the automaton was designed to hold a midget whose voice would be used for the voice of the automaton. It was later revealed that the “real” Claire — was a midget!

    It was like fake Claire was actually a fake automaton — the true Claire was concealed from view. Brilliant!

  35. I also like how at the end of the film, Virgil is inside the “Night and Day” pub and the camera pulls away from him, showing all the spinning cogs and wheels, surrounding him. It was like Virgil had become part of the fake automaton by believing that Claire would one day return. His tranformation was complete. Brilliant!

    1. Wonderful interpretation and very well put. The man who thought so highly of himself and was so highly regarded by others (even Billy, who was compelled to have his revenge) was ultimately reduced to an ego so small as to fit neatly inside a device concocted by others.

  36. Loved the movie. I love these cerebral thrillers and the various discussions they spawn. Well done. Thanks all for contributing – for shrinking and widening the gap of my own speculation.

    Automation guy = Michail Volkenstein?

  37. I did love this movie. I just watched it on tv. I just have to comment that in the scene where Claire says, “No matter what may become of us, know that I do love you,” that it’s a direct take from “Vertigo” when Kim Novak kisses Jimmy Stewart and then runs up to the clock tower where she supposedly jumps to her death.

    1. And there it is. Thank you! This movie is an homage (in part) to Hitchcock and to his brilliant masterpiece “Vertigo.” I mean there is a lot more going on than that, but no one else seems to have made the direct connection reflected in this remark of fake

  38. From an optimist standpoint i believe that the clock bar at the end is actualy after Virgil is released from the nursing home. The fake Claire may or may not show up there, which is left for the viewer to decide.

  39. Actually, i can’t help but admit that the movie was a very masterpiece. All the the scenes was beautifully gathered with those twists of mystery leading directly to the plot. The movies highlights such a very important issue that i do really admit (as a man) that the most terrible weakness infused in the deepest part of a man’s soul is his own “sympathy”.Talking from a personal experience, “sympathy” as it’s the shortest path to even the most cruel man’s heart, is at the same time the only very thing (if misused by a dark-souled woman,) could be used to cruelly destroy him from in out.

  40. Robert going around with many girls is to convince Virgil to confide in Robert..more and more…and create an impression that “Robert is a master with the girls” so he can seek guidance from him and also let others (Fake Claire and Billy) know what he is going to do..Most of the details are revealed by Oldman to Robert.

    Also the thugs who attacked Virgil,I guess had stolen the access to Virgil’s secret chamber and that is what is shown in the car trunk alongwith the catalogs.Apparently Virgil had a duplicate access key for his secret chamber.

    1. Perhaps you should have been looking elsewhere. Claire was only wearing a robe, and rather loosely. When she lifted her leg, Virgil had a clear view of … her not wearing underwear. That scene had her drop something in the kitchenette, out of view so it was created for one purpose, to give Virgil/Virgin Oldman what he had to have, a glimpse.

  41. Wouldn’t Virgil have known that the automaton was a fake from having studied the artist and his history for his thesis?

    Robert showed him the engraved signature, but come to think of it, this could easily been set up as a forgery since an etched into metal and no real brush stroked to decipher.

    (Virgil sure was trusting which makes him so endearing).

    I would like to believe the automaton was authentic and very valuable…the one thing Billy left for Virgil in exchange for all that was taken from him …materially and especially …emotionally.

    Any thoughts in the automaton being authentically created by one of Virgil’s favorite artists? And having great value?

    PS I like the comment about the possibility of Claire being Billy’s girlfriend

    1. The vaucson automaton was used as bait, as the auctioneer did his thesis on it back then. It’s common knowledge that none of vaucsons machines survived, this info could be used to coax the greedy auctioneer into maybe assembling the only one in existence, priceless, as an object dart, and a scam hook plot thickener.

    2. I think you are perfectly right! He would have noticed it was a fake. Just like he noticed that the first pieces were 18th century. After assessing the automaton would be a Vaucason, we barely saw him investigating the remainder of the pieces he found, biased by the authenticity of his previous findings, and blinded by his new object of fascination, Claire. I do believe that the automaton was mostly a fake. Hence the message he got at the end, in front of the completed automaton “The is always something authentic concealed in every forgery, I couldn’t agree more! That’s why i will miss you mister Oldman”

      We could also remark that the message could have a double meaning, in terms of Virgil being the only authentic piece is the whole forgery (the scam). That is up for debate.

  42. Hi. I saw this movie today and was impact for its really good secuence or as you mentioned, a great masterpice. It also reminds me the thriller Vertigo. I do agree that Oldman ends up in the hospital after he went to the restaurant with the hope to find Claire. Great analysis of all of you had made me see and think different sides and perspectives of the movie. GBU!!

  43. I believe that the real “Claire” was reciting prime numbers, which is an activity that some autistic savants engage in. Her character could be viewed as a mirror to the automaton. One is mechanical, and almost human while the other is human, but almost mechanical. The fact that she was the real owner of the house, as well as being “sick” makes the con work more smoothly.

  44. I think Claire’s love was real. Remember when she answered the phone Director? She wanted to change the ending to be happy but was told it will remain as is. That was probably Billy.

  45. well, that is Virgil’s “karma” for lying and deceiving those people who trusted their antiques (specifically the paintings) on him, and for being a bad friend to Billy and selfish too. He himself is manipulative, and that’s what he get in return. He have earned so much from those paintings even if he doesn’t sell them. The owner of those paintings should have got what they deserved for their property, but Virgil abuses his position, his discretion. Billy deserve a respect from a friend even if Virgil pays him or gives him kickbacks from what he does for Billy. Short to say, this movie has a happy ending and sad ending, because imagine those paintings hanging on his wall, which is equivalent to those people he deceived..(like a painting that is sold for hundred thousands which is originally 8M)that’s double from the amount it is sold) though, it doesn’t exclude Billy for what he did..but still Virgil deserved it because there’s no way for him to be incarcerated from his act..this is like an unlawful act is concealed with another unlawful act..despite of the ‘punishment’ Virgil received, still, justice was not prevailed..

  46. This absolutely great movie but I have one question – Why was Robert in the house when those two were having dinner? Is there a specific reason??

  47. Karts (above) suggests that Virgil has been attacked in order to get access to Virgil’s art collection.Nothing in the script hints that this is the case
    Poor Virgil was beaten to a pulp just so they could have that scene in the hospital where he smiles at seeing his beloved Clair at his bedside.

    All you young schnooks are probably too young to have seen The film “The Blue Angel” with Marlena Dietrich.

    A respected prophesor falls head over heals over a cabaret dancer half his age
    ” whatever Lola wants..Lola gets” This burning love is his ruin

  48. Just watched the movie, BRILLIANT! Last scene was confusing, thanx for your views, ill watch it again and see what I make of it the 2nd time around.

  49. Thank you all for explaining things I missed even the second time I watched this great movie. Have anybody noticed the flashing lites that so many times is seen in Robert’s shop as if there was a car passing by to which Robert pays attention?

  50. i enjoyed the movie but found it unsettling. It reminded me of Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Definitely not a promising healthy normal relationship in the cards for Virgil. It was clear to me that he was an
    emotionally uptight, repressed man intent on controlling his world. That was his weakness. Who better to entice him than a waif like , helpless female with unknown art treasures for him to plunder? I am sorry he got beat up but Its karma. He is not a very pleasant man and probably pissed many people off.

    Also, Virgil said that all forgers have the need to leave their own mark on the forgery. I think that the ballerina painting was done by Billy since he signed it on the back. It’s interesting that Virgil considered this painting of no value but reconsidered once he found out it was of Claire’s mother. He even deemed it acceptable enough to include it in his collection. Interesting that it was the only one left behind! Art is subjective and should only be measured by our senses and not by dollars and cents in my humble opinion. Could it be possible that Claire was Billy’s daughter? How much is Virgil aware of others? He wasn’t sure if his auction house manager was married and had to ask. I don’t think he really cared or was interested in anyone but himself. A true narcissist.

    I love movies that make you think and you are compelled to watch it again. Now ask me about the real Claire and that’s a person I’d like to know more about. How did she get the house and why is she at the cafe. It reminds me of Twin Peaks. The message of the movie is what is reality? Can we really be sure of anything? Robertson Davies wrote a wonderful book on art forgery sorry the name escapes me right now but it was after the Deptford trilogy. Very enlightening.

    1. The item in the boot of the car is a tracker (GPS). It was the same kind that Robert earlier made for the customer who came in to talk about the pet(?) that had wandered off.

  51. Just watched the movie today and I thought it was amazing. Haven’t seen a movie like this in awhile leaving somewhat of questions at the end. I figured that everyone was in on it and the actor Claire probably did not have feelings for Virgil. Like real actress, there are love scenes in movies that they make but that doesn’t mean they are in love. I felt as tho Claire and Robert were lovers just because Roberts brown gf knew something was up with Robert. The brown girl had to talk to Virgil because Virgil was also spending a lot of time with Robert and she knew they were friends. The brown girl was most likely played by Robert to make the acting more realistic.

  52. One word: Fantastic. The movie had me guessing till the very end. As somebody who got scammed a few months back – albeit the damage can be attributed more to my stupidity than the scammer’s planning – this movie was super-refreshing.

    “Everything can be fake Virgil: joy, pain, hate, illness, recovery… even love.”


  53. I watched this movie on TV. It puzzled me a lot as I never suspected that “Claire” was someone acting a part. But what I don’t understand is, how many of the paintings Virgil auctioned were fakes? And who painted the fake/s? Was it Billy? Did Virgil know who painted them? Did Virgil know who stole his paintings? Did the thieves take them to Prague and what did they plan to do with them?

    1. It seems that Virgil pronounced real paintings as “fakes” so that they could be auctioned off cheaply to his accomplice – Billy.

  54. 1) The groundskeeper had to have been in on this because he offers an oral history.
    2) Why was Virgil compiling a catalogue without checking the provenance of the items he was selling?

  55. If any of you remember, Virgil said in every forgery there is a brush stroke of authentic! In my opinion, when fake Claire told him about the one time she felt free in Prague was at the Night and Day pub and in the open courtyard out front of it. I believe that was her one authentic brushstroke in her story. This one the one thing she couldn’t help to leave out, each artist must leave one part of themselves behind! Whether that means they meet up again or not, you be the judge!

  56. I discovered this movie just this last weekend (10/18). I can’t stop watching it. I thoroughly enjoyed the richness of the entire production. Geoffrey Rush’s performance had me rooting for him, even towards the end, as the camera methodically pans away from Virgil — Virgil gradually becoming the vanishing point, in reverse. Reading the latter missives, re his fall from grace, leaves me a tad confused and causes me to question the writer/director’s intent. I want to believe Virgil survived his meltdown, and the final scene in the restaurant named Night and Day was the beginning of his realized relationship with himself. I want to believe Virgil can survive anything. Virgil’s behavior, through out the film, fascinated me — his ability to utilize his senses of touch and smell — which I feel were extremely heightened and developed as survival skills. His behavioral choices steeped in an orphaned childhood, causing him to build a reality, arming him against abandonment and impermanency. Psycho-dramas will grab me every time.

  57. An aspect of this movie that I don’t see being discussed here is that, by my read, Virgil’s love for Claire was never genuine — or, at least, it never eclipsed his love of art.

    The clearest reason for this conclusion is that, despite his growing affection for Claire, Virgil still fleeced her of what he believed to be an extraordinarily valuable piece of art, the automaton. He essentially stole the pieces of this machine right out from under Claire’s nose, and never told her about it, even after his affection supposedly grew. Even at the end, when the four of them were dining out and Claire had moved in with him, Virgil had not uttered a word. How true was his affection if he was still willing to rob her, at least in his mind, of the one truly valuable object she owned? Not that he didn’t love her, but he did love her art more.

    This unfortunate fact is artfully illustrated when Virgil enters his empty art room, and sees only the automaton. Recall earlier in the movie, Robert asks him, as his affection for Claire was growing, who he would choose as between Claire and the automaton. The camera pans away before we see his answer. But apparently, his answer was the automaton — as that is what Robert/Billy left him with, as Claire disappeared.

    This also helps explain the less-than-hopeful ending. While it may be tempting to see the scene in the clock pub as the final point in Virgil’s development, its pretty clear that scene is actually a flashback from Virgil’s true current state, as a broken man in a home. And that would be consistent with how the movie would ultimately like us to see Virgil: a a tragic man who, even when he found love, was unable to put it above his love of art. Clearly Claire would not come back to him, even if she loved him, with the knowledge that he preferred art to her. And so, just as he preferred paintings of women to an actual one, he was left with art in the form of an automated person instead of a real one.

    There’s some disagreement here about whether the final state of Virgil is as a broken man in an asylum, or a man waiting for his love at the clock pub. I’m pretty sure

  58. An aspect of this movie that I don’t see being discussed here is that, by my read, Virgil’s love for Claire was never genuine — or, at least, it never eclipsed his love of art.

    The clearest reason for this conclusion is that, despite his growing affection for Claire, Virgil still fleeced her of what he believed to be an extraordinarily valuable piece of art, the automaton. He essentially stole the pieces of this machine right out from under Claire’s nose, and never told her about it, even after his affection supposedly grew. Even at the end, when the four of them were dining out and Claire had moved in with him, Virgil had not uttered a word. How true was his affection if he was still willing to rob her, at least in his mind, of the one truly valuable object she owned? Not that he didn’t love her, but he did love her art more.

    This unfortunate fact is artfully illustrated when Virgil enters his empty art room, and sees only the automaton. Recall earlier in the movie, Robert asks him, as his affection for Claire was growing, who he would choose as between Claire and the automaton. The camera pans away before we see his answer. But apparently, his answer was the automaton — as that is what Robert/Billy left him with, as Claire disappeared.

    This also helps explain the less-than-hopeful ending. While it may be tempting to see the scene in the clock pub as the final point in Virgil’s development, its pretty clear that scene is actually a flashback from Virgil’s true current state, as a broken man in a home. And that would be consistent with how the movie would ultimately like us to see Virgil: a a tragic man who, even when he found love, was unable to put it above his love of art. Clearly Claire would not come back to him, even if she loved him, with the knowledge that he preferred art to her. And so, just as he preferred paintings of women to an actual one, he was left with art in the form of an automated person instead of a real one.

  59. *Exactly* how did Billy,assuming that he was the “mastermind”,assemble the constituent people needed for his scheme to deceive and defraud Virgil by means of the *elaborate* ruse??
    A phrase use often in the comments is “in on it”….what the hell does THAT mean.? How were these individuals initially recruited by Billy to begin with? Look at it this way:
    Go back say a decade..there were Virgil and Billy..That’s plot, scheme as of then.

    *Explain how the characters Robert and the two Claires became incorporated into the scheme hatched by Billy..and do so in a logical and chronological; fashion*

    good luck with that

  60. I think that this whole movie is an art piece, espacially the fact that each one of us is painting the end of the movie as he wants and understands.
    Another thing that wasn’t manssiond here is the fact that fake Claire calls Virgil on his birthday because he always answers the first call on his birthday, and it is something that only his closest freind Billy would know.
    I think that the sex sin between Virgil and fake Claire is also very powerfull because one can see the power of Virgilws amotion for Claire and the fact that it is for the first time.

  61. Clearly, Virgil was a not so latent homosexual who was both in love with and simultaneously frustrated by Billy. He actually saw Billy as an artistic talent but mocked him because he had never responded to Virgil’s many advances over the course of their relationship. Herein lies the real reason for Billy’s betrayal. Why no one sees this is beyond my highly evolved intellect…

  62. At one point i thought the fake claire was an automaton. The scene where she was hiding in the attic and kept on repeating the words “you’ve come back… you’ve come back…”. Sounded eeriely like a robot.

    There’s also another scene that i couldn’t figure out. The scene that shows the real claire in the coffee shop, reciting some numbers. Apparently she got some numbers wrong, and some guy at the pinball machine screamed at her, calling her stupid or something. Whats the significance of that scene?

  63. In the pinball scene real Claire is calculating the player’s score using the sounds emitting from the pinball machine. The player yells at her because he thinks she miscalculated. When the bartender tells him to double-check his score the players admits he is wrong and Claire is correct. The point of the scene is to introduce & confirm Claire’s savant abilities.

  64. Most likely the mastermind of the plot is Billy. He is the only one who knew about Virgil’s special interest in the automaton.His plot is flawless because ultimately,he is reposessed with the art work that is legally his , hence the futility of Virgil’s intention to address the police. His motives are obvious.Apparently the ” director” Bill is also fake Claire’ s older friend whom she met in Prague.The restaurant’s design leads me to believe that that’s how Bill and Claire got to meet Robert and through him the real Claire. Robert’s skill is absolutely essential for keeping Virgil’s interest long enough until he gets hooked by Claire’s act.Now we have the whole cast and everyone is also in on it, namely the administrator, the thugs, Sarah.
    I’ d like to think the last scene means indeed that Virgil is waiting for Claire and by her statement she will eventually show up.

    1. I agree that the restaurant in Prague is the most likely spot where Robert was found. Since he had been renting the Villa for 2 years, it was a long scam in the making if as I believe, it was orchestrated by Billy. Or, do you believe that meeting Robert happened after Robert had rented the Villa? But if Robert had independently rented the Villa, why?

  65. virgil once says that there’s always something authentic bout every forgery……so, everything that happened with him was a forgery and he thinks that the authentic part was the restaurant claire mentions about once,…..that’s why he goes into the restaurant…..not because he thougt that claire loved him a bit somewhere and thus she would return back…..but because he believd that only this part was authentic out of this whole forgery

  66. Excellent movie. My thoughts are that the weird tod-sucjing scene was purely to seduce Virgil. He was just really getting to see her, and she had no pants on, and her lifting her leg up to suck on her toe was seductive and luring. The painting supposedly being of her mother I think was nothing more than another lure. He was dying to know what she looked like, but that picture was there to hook him even more. At one point he asks her if she looks like her mother (hoping of course that she does). I am not so sure it is that he loves his art so much as r conning and robbing others is what he knows best, and the con ended up being on him. All of those paintings of women in his vault were like trophies of his cons, and he was left with Billy’s “trophy” of his con on him. At the end, we see the flashbacks of what led to Virgil cracking, amd I think that final scene of him sitting in the restaraunt was the last thing that happened before his cheese slid off his cracker. Each tidbit/flashback revealed all levels of the con, and that last scene was that Claire was not ever coming back to him. I think Billy knew Virgil’s vulnerabilities and so he chose Clair wisely to seduce and lure Virgil into this. So for that, I am not so sure I think Clair was Billy’s daughter…I think Billy made sure to choose someone significantly younger and beautiful.

    1. I never found someone sucking their toe the least bit seductive or sexy. I thought she was sucking the blood from being injured. I also didn’t notice she had no pants on, because I don’t look for that!

      She didn’t need to ‘seduce’ him or have sex with him. What happened to platonic friendship? They already had a friendship. Sex was not necessary. The sex shows me she did have feelings for him

  67. The whole time I thought there was going to be a happy ending where the midgit in the cafe would sit inside the automaton robot and speak just like Virgil and Robert discussed while gathering gears and parts for it. The whole time I was trying to fit those peices together while something else was happening beneath my eyes. Sad ending, if the automaton was real it would have been happy and everyone would have been rich. The fake Claire was obviously one of the mechaincs Roberts girl friends who Billy mastermined. In the end they all took off with Virgils collection of genuine art and are all set for life.

    It would have been nice to have something happen after that though, like the fake Claire steals or kills Billys take of the profit out of spite or something. But instead we are left with silence of Virgils love dissapearing. Haunting.

  68. Did anyone notice the mistake? When Oldman was beaten and lying in the street he could barely move his hand to dial the phone. However, when we first see him, he is lying with his head on the left side and legs to the right…..

    Later when Claire bends over him, he is lying in just the opposite position, head on the right and legs on the left. All views are looking from the perspective of the bar towards the villa…

  69. In my lifetime I have seen thousands of movies, but this effort is at the top of my drek list. The story is absurd, the acting mediocre, the conclusion maudlin. Claire, the recluse, is one of the worst actresses I’ve ever seen in a romantic role. Her performance as a disturbed woman is as jarring and spurious as Sylvestor Stallone’s performance would be if he were portraying King Lear. One hopes, the Director will rise above this dribble in his next effort. What a fiasco!

  70. I have a weird theory after watching this – what if this all took place in his head. A concoction in trying to cope with the changes in his life.

    His fear and anxiety of women creates Claire; the watchmaker is actually him as a boy (it fits his background he tells Claire – His overconfidence with women the opposite of his fears) Claire’s villa is actually all of his items that he is needing to sell as he is not well. This is shown through his rather abrupt changes in behavior and attitude,, his losing of routine. He tries to manage a routine going to the coffee shop down the street hence the never questioning of Claires ability, and orders the same thing every time.

    The panic of searching for Claire at the park. This was actually him lost at the park, knowing that it is familiar( I have been around this park three times) but not being able to find his way.

    I honestly think that he had dementia or Alzheimer’s. All of the changes in character fit completely. The ending where time starts to get messed up between the present and the past, the going to the police – but who would believe that his stuff was stolen. The looking at the catalogues in the trunk, his empty room after his last auction. it was his auction of all his art. But he couldn’t remember selling it.

    1. I thought he had auctioned off his paintings as well, but only during the last auction scene. After the show advanced, I realized he didn’t sell them.

      For the above dementia theory, several times I scanned the scenes in the secret room where the pictures were stored. I could not find the last painting that sold in the final auction scene. If it was worth so much, and belonged to him, I would have thought it would be easy to see from his chair in his room.

    2. I don’t think your perception is weird. I am going to watch it again with this in mind. Aside from your very different perception, I really believe there is a connection that everyone is missing between the dwarf savant and the automaton. I think the automaton is authentic and maybe belonged to real Clair’s father and she was the savant dwarf who fit into the box underneath. Not sure how this ties in with the film/scam, but I feel strongly there is a connection. The reason Virgil didn’t think to acknowledge real Clair is because he’s a snob and narcissist. The reason no one else saw what was happening at the Villa is because they weren’t interested and didn’t pay any attention to real Claire. She was just a fixture of the bar. The reason she did know what was going on is she sat all day long constantly looking out the window at the Villa.

      Anyone else’s thoughts on this?

  71. I think what made fake Claire attractive to Virgil was that she was a woman locked up in a room, unseen by anyone else, just like his paintings. Only Billy could have known this is what made him tick.

    1. The fake Claire’s phobia was a part of her character. As the real Claire told Virgil, the fake Claire was in and out of the villa over 200 times. What I didn’t get was the part where Virgil was frantically searching for Claire and she was found in the cellar of the villa. What was that about?

  72. The stolen happened right after his retirement, how ironically since he could not manipulate any more other auctions. Is it coincident that his love toward Claire really grown right before that time. Is it masterminded by Billy? or a luck of him? Anyone know please share your points

  73. I agree with all the comments.
    I just want to add that we dont have to forget a scene of Claire at phone, I think that she was really in love with Virgil and she wants to avoid stole him.
    what was write behind the draw that Virgil found in his house after his las auction? What said that message from billy?

    1. I thought it would be cool if Virgil knew about the con all along. He could have created a fake persona, and, exchange the real paintings for exact replicas.

      In re… The automaton: Have pieces mailed to the thieves from time to time, or, name it ‘Claire’ and give it to the ‘Night and Day’ pub to put on display where they could see it.

  74. Hi.
    I read the part of the reviews. I have one question. What do you think about the night scene? When i was looking that part, i saw Claire’s real fear to get out from the gate.

  75. I sincerely enjoyed your comments. I believe it is a criminal act for there not to be part 2 of this movie.

  76. Hello, I jsut had an AHA moment, THAT MIGHT CLEAR THE ENDING COMPLETELY! 🙂

    Sorry if it has been told, but the conversation here is very long.

    Claire was reffering in her pohnecalls to a Director, which was probably Bill, in one of her phonecalls she told him “Im gonna change last few chapters, make them a bit more happier/more happy ending” I think she actually fell in love with Virgil and she decided, she might meet him later, that’s why she told him about the restaurant in Prague (yes, the last restaurant was in Prague, I’m from Prague and I know that place very well)

    So my answer to the question if she really loved him, and wanna meet him again. Yes, they will meet again.

  77. The real Clair says in the last year and a half the fake Clair went out 216 times. If the fake Clair was an actress what was she doing for a year and a half in that house? All of that happened for not such long time i think. Anyone has an opinion about this?

    1. Fake Claire, the hired actress, was at the mansion prior because she may have needed a place to stay, anyway. My take is that she was going out to see the mechanically-gifted Robert, who was strategically nearby. But Robert also had to court the other girl, Sarah, to show her off to Virgil & legitimize the ruse (he couldn’t possibly be seen publicly with Claire while Billy’s scam was forming.) But Sarah correctly suspects his insincerity & conveys this to Virgil. It is curious to speculate that Claire may have once been involved with Billy, the ‘older man’ she mentions to Virgil…and says on the phone to someone ‘are you jealous?’ It’s unclear if that would mean jealous of Virgil or Robert…but then again, Billy may have had a thing for Virgil. To compile & plot Virgil’s utter downfall had to be something more than just artistic revenge?

  78. Such wonderful insights. Especially interesting are Ed’s dementia theory, and codrin’s conclusion that Robert was the designer /fabricator of the restaurant.

    I am left wondering about A writer’s (or more generally any artist’s) ego and conceit believing that his secrets are worth hiding because it is safe to presume that his work will be so celebrated that his sleight of hand will be revealed to all by the endless discussion the work engenders.

    Did anyone think the spinning device was a therapeutic intervention or just another artistic conceit meant to evoke the Davinci drawing it resembled?

    1. English isn’t my first language sorry!
      I believe that the movie is about alchemy and about time.
      Time is an evil genius that can wipe out your impressions. The Alzheimer’s theorie is right but need a little further investigation about reality and the metamorphosis of human soul.
      The first time he is in love, he realizes their is an eye in the muddy painting.
      The same eye which will provide the fakery excuse. So their are a lot of insight to show him he’s being played as he is playing. This foreshadowing is a great moment, many painting display esoteric knowledge, as in the same time a pyramid is displayed behind him. Pyramid whichever will be revealed as papal hat ( pine apple hat). I won’t go to much in esoteric but they are a lot in the movie.
      The 2 Claire are just one person, one is the real one and the other is the forgery or the market value of the other.
      So here is the big revelation, the two protagonist are one person, one is the creative mind and the other hemisphere is the logical mind. As a spectator we envy this man, he has everything we cherish( money fame and even respect). Somewhere the creative mind was killed and suppressed and ridiculed by the logical mind ( like in the supertramp song). We don’t respect the creative mind and we don’t think a lot about this weird guy that live in the shadow of the great inquisitive narcissistic oldman.
      Remember the creative helped him get laid, that is the metaphor of all those painting kept in a closet. Remembering just face like trophies.
      The revenge is permitted by time, the architect of this storie.
      I can go deeper but I had a bad day so I will keep it here.
      I will end up with just a question:
      How many of us, listened to this logical voice and sold out our dreams for an autistique way of life ruled by numbers, and life narrow. A midget life, when we were supposed to be giants?

  79. That was a grat movie,
    Maybe is in the discussion but is it real the painting “Gustav Red, Portrait of a woman with a hat, 1956” cause is a very beautiful painting and it will be nice to be seen somewhere

  80. The conclusion that little Claire owned the expensive furniture has a hole in this theory. She always sat at the restaurant window, she always watched the coming & goings of young Claire & Virgil as evidenced by the reciting the number of times Claire & Virgil had been in & out of Villa. Little Claire would have seen her expensive art work leaving the village & as owner of artwork would not have allowed her furnishings to be moved out.

  81. Claire may have left the villa all those times in order to meet up with Robert, who apparently led a very active night life. She may have hesitated at the gate (the night of Virgil’s beating) because she was cautious about her “authentic” love for Virgil, until compassion within her took over & she ran out to him. The furnishings in the house, as others have suggested, were provided by Billy, the “Director” of the ruse, who no doubt was wealthy enough to provide such furnishings from his kickbacks dealing with Virgil -therefore, the little person (real Claire) would not question what the actors were doing with all that furniture leaving the villa. Some of it was clearly just junk, to fill up the place. Virgil himself had announced that he considered Claire’s “quality” furnishings to be of mediocre value, when he angrily tossed the contract papers to the floor. Real Claire’s expensive stuff may have been sold off a decade earlier (as income to support herself), since she lived upstairs at the pub, or at least I believe that’s where she said she now lived. Why would she leave her family heirlooms behind in a house rented to others, such as a group of actors? I believe Billy had the place furnished and installing (fake) Claire there inside (just like Virgil’s secret female-paintings room) was Billy’s truest signature piece, his coup de grace. Real Claire could have been installed in the automaton that also fascinated Virgil & drone her savant number quotas from there. At least those were correct & factual, unlike fake Claire’s mumblings of love… I mean, really….would fake Claire truly want Virgil over Robert?? Come on, let’s be real about that. NO ONE would truly want Virgil. Although some have suggested Billy may have once yearned for him…

  82. I would have liked to view this movie with the plot enlightenment’s I’ve gleaned in this discussion, but I can’t. My heart was broken right along with Virgil’s at his revelation of the rouse by those he did allow into his heart/life. So much for dropping one’s guard and taking chances because as soon as you do, plow! This is one movie I can’t bear seeing again. Thank you all for your insights.

  83. Can someone explain to me why they left the automan? Virgil is a genious when it comes to art, the artist that made the automan was his thesis in university, there is no way he wouldn’t spot a fake one. That was a total melodrama, and huge mistake on the directors behalf, but not the only one. Also the sex scenes were revolting, he could be her grandfather,her petite body and baby face make it even more creepy, borderline pedophilia. The actress should have been older or at least older looking.

  84. The beating was clearly arranged to happen as a plausible way to get Claire out of the house.Billy knew he would call Claire instead of an ambulance because he was a selfish person at heart.

    1. Yes, Mike, I think you’re right -that the beating was pre-arranged. All part of the ‘act’ to place Claire squarely before Virgil, outside, and free at last –it was staged as the impetus for her ‘cure’ from ‘agoraphobia.’ As for the squeamish sex scenes, and knowing how some women are, anything goes -for money. Even if they have to sleep with some guy to get it. Obviously Claire was going to receive quite a cut for the pivotal role she had to play (endure.) Poor Virgil was extremely “had”…kinda sad, for someone his age…He can wait at the cafe all he wants….Sigh!…Claire is never coming back.

  85. I think the scene when he got beat up was also a set up so that Claire could prove to him once and for all she was madly in love with him and would sacrifice anything for him so he would fall hook line and sinker completely and trust her completely. Of course it would also give the reason for her miraculously being able to of course she could go to his place and have access to the paintings. She was in on it not just as an actress but I am sure for a cut of the money. That would explain her sleeping with him. She was a cold hearted snake.

  86. I just saw this movie last night and as soon as it ended I sought out this site to try and find some clarity. I noticed that these comments started last year but I guess I missed it then. At any rate, I too found this movie fascinating and agree with the comments made about it’s Twin Peaks/Vertigo-esque vibe. The only new explanation I can add that hasn’t already been stated is that the reason fake Claire had been counted leaving the villa 200 + times was because the story’s timeline was a year. Virgil’s 2 b-days? Wouldn’t you leave a place that many times if you lived somewhere over the course of a year? Esp if you’re really not agoraphobic?- long scam.

    1. Yes, it was a long con… I think the tracker was in Virgil’s car so they could know where he was at any moment and not risk running into him when they were out of character. I think that Billy was the mastermind, and Claire, Robert, Sarah, and the caretaker were all in on the scam. Sarah’s confiding to Virgil that Robert was constantly talking about a “Claire” was to make Virgil jealous and heighten his desire for Claire.

      I have loved reading the comments because so many had interesting takes on the symbolism and the connection between Virgil’s first loves being all the portraits of women kept locked in a secret room and having Claire be a live woman supposedly locked in a secret room by her agoraphobia. How could Virgil resist her, and he would feel the need to possess her.

      There were also the comments about which Virgil loved more – the inanimate art: his portraits and the automaton – or Claire. I think even he struggled with that one. During the restaurant scene when he shows the catalog of Claire’s possessions that he has painstakingly put together and is clearly emotionally invested in… did anyone else notice the look on his face and his rage when he tore up the catalog after Claire announced she had changed her mind and no longer wanted to sell them? I think he was finding it difficult to put Claire ahead of his love of the art and auction scene at that moment.

  87. We are all Virgil. He was given a choice between the real Claire or the automaton. Art is an imitation of life. We can choose one or the other. The film was a work of art. Virgil chose art over life. As the automaton actress Claire was taken from him, he got a look at the real Claire at the heart of the automaton. She was a midget. She had the same characteristics that supposedly mad him empathetic to Claire. She was a shut in, fascinating, had a sparkling personality. But she was ignored as he fixated on the illusion of Claire. The restaurant scenes in the beginning and end are carbon copies. Having the opportunity to experience the real did not bring out any humanity in Virgil. It merely changed his perspective. Instead of his original art works, he clung to the copy painted by Billy. Billy proved that Virgil could not truly be a judge of the value of his art because he did not appreciate what is truly important (life). Billy was so hurt by Virgil saying he was not great that he set up a performance art that demonstrated Virgil was flawed in his appraisal. He discounted Billy who was real in his life and prefered the false forgery of life, art. Virgil had a chance to learn what was important. He could have chosen the real Claire and been just as happy if he chose humanity over vanity. In the end, he sits (day and night) inside the automaton. He chose the illusion of Claire created by Billy. He is a trajic hero, flawed. His flaw (lack of appreciation for humanity) dooms him to sit in the fake.

    Most posters seem stuck in the he fake. They are thrilled with the artful device (the film) and are disinterested in the other posters. Only one poster will escape the entertaining fake. That poster asked the others to join him for real interaction at the real restaurant.

    You never see humanity of the film. Billy ceded that he would be content if only Virgil appreciated his work. You are enthralled with the creation and fail to care about the creator.

  88. Interesting choices for some of the characters’ names:
    1) OldMan for the retirng Virgil and
    2) Claire, which in French means clear; it’s a highly appropriate name for the savant who spews out the facts and gives the impression she lacks the capacity to lie.

    Yes, I agree with the other comments that the casting for the fake Claire distracted from the movie’s merits especially given that elderly parents wouldn’t have a daughter in her late 20’s.

    And any man is his early 70’s, no matter how arrogant, would be at least somewhat skeptical of a young woman falling in love with him, even if she were mentally ill. In that sense, the movie would have had more verisimilitude if played by a beautiful actress in her 40’s.

    The casting only works if the director wanted to hint at an Electra complex: perhaps having a younger woman with childish features (remember Claire’s underdeveloped breasts, especially her nipples, when she is in the bathtub) who carries herself like a graceless teenager brings out Oldman’s paternal instincts in addition to his latent sexual desire.

  89. Thanks to everyone who has written here. It cleared up a lot of my own questions about the film. However there are still differences of opinions. The one thing I’m still not clear about is the fake Claire’s real feelings for Virgil. The best idea I’ve come up with is that she did come to care for him, somewhat, perhaps through pity or perhaps she was touched by his genuine love. Otherwise why would she have told him to remember that she really loved him. She would not have needed to say that in order to further the robbery plan. That bit of genuine feeling might have been the true mark of the forger that Virgil referred to. As for the sex scenes, she could have just gone along with them, if she had some feeling for him. I do find it hard to believe that such a beautiful young woman would have truly fallen in love with him.

  90. PS Overnight I have reconsidered the matter of Fake Claire’s real feelings for Virgil. I realized that this story is from the mind of a middle aged European male for whom May/December romances, especially in Movie Land, are not uncommon. Look at Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren, or Bergman and his many young mistresses, not to mention Woody Allen. I’d rather not mention him, but he illustrates the point. Even Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. So, while the idea of the beautiful young Fake Claire actually falling in love with the uptight, rumple-faced fifty or sixty-ish Virgil seems unlikely, perhaps within the context of the story…it happened.

    There are still other unloose ends to the plot, though, to me. Were the thugs who beat up Virgil planned by the Director? This couldn’t have been an accident. Perhaps this is what moved Fake Claire into genuinely carrying for Virgil. It seems that pity was a motivating factor for both of them.

    I vote along with others for a Sequel. Or perhaps a PreQuel in which we get the back story on Claire. Why was she predisposed to fall in love with an old guy? Daddy issues? Did she really have an incident in Prague? Who was her lover there? Anyone we know? Who was Robert and how did he get to be so chummy with Virgil, who hated everyone? How did Billy and Virgil meet? What was Billy’s back story?

    Then, after the back stories of the various players, we go back to Virgil, sitting in the Night anF Day, at the rear table, watching the door. Will Fake Claire appear? Will they fall in love (again?) Will she fall at his feet and beg forgiveness? Will he somehow take revenge?

    Please Mr. Film Director….help us out!

    1. May/December romances do seem common in Europe, where I once met a 53-yr.old Belgian male with his 19-yr.old French girlfriend + a 93-yr.old German with a 36-yr. old American female.) So Claire & Virgil were not so oddly paired -to the continental mind, though it grates on our sensibilities. I mistakenly felt that Claire ran into the rain to aid the beaten-up Virgil out of compassion…but then realized by a comment here, that even that action was staged. The beating was obviously pre-arranged to dramatically lure Claire outdoors, so she could inherently meld into his sphere of existence. Thus her fake ‘agoraphobia’ disperses. Robert could have been one of the paid thugs who beats Virgil. Claire & Robert, an attractive young duo -are vital to Billy’s artful & intricate subterfuge. When Claire whispers to Virgil that she’ll ‘always love him’ -was perhaps her one spectral ray of compassion (or one last artsy brush-stroke.) She knows she’ll soon run off with Robert, most likely – both handsomely paid by Billy, the Director of this finely-worked masterpiece. And Virgil’s left only with the pitiful hope that MAYBE this beautiful (decoy) Claire was sincere…maybe she’ll float into that cafe one day, where he sits & waits, alone & haunted…by the clocks. He has nothing else to sustain him but their ticking. Claire leaves him, and he leaves the automaton behind that once deeply fascinated him (his mechanical ‘gift’ from Billy.) The real Claire also sits daily in a pub. She’s not alluring to Virgil -but her automaton-like mind should be! And at least she’s available for a date. I don’t know if that thought is sad, funny or intriguing.

  91. All through this movie I was waiting for the ‘scam’, knowing that something was going to happen. The story line has had a lot of interpretations and some very interesting comments. My take on the movie was the dwarf Claire parents owned the house and antiques, but the dwarf Claire was not able to financially afford the upkeep on the place consequently living above the cafe and renting the house out to make ends meet. The antiques had to be real or else Virgil would have noticed. My conclusion upon seeing this movie was that the people at the cafe across from the house were all in on the scam. I thought it was the men playing pool in that cafe who beat up Virgil on the street. The entire ‘scam’ was of Billy’s making and it would have taken years to organize. The end of the movie was done extremely well because it has left the viewer wondering if the waiting in the cafe in Prague was before or after his breakdown. One thing I didn’t quite understand, what was the painting wrapped in brown paper that Virgil was carrying in Prague? Loved the movie, well done to everyone connected with it.

  92. Ridiculous plot. All that because a man got his feelings hurt about someone not appreciating his paintings. And what was the tracking device needed for? Total waste of time.

  93. Loved this movie! The ending shocked me! Ever since the discussion Virgil had with Robert about how anything can be faked I was suspicious that it was possible claire was pretending to be in love with Virgil, but I didn’t know for sure. Also at Virgil’s last auction when he had the exchange with billy, the look in Billy’s eyes was interesting. He didn’t look like he was sincere. Still I never suspected billy was in on the whole scheme. Also when Virgil was beat up I wondered if that was a setup too? And I thought the real claire was calling an ambulance, but the ambulance didn’t come. It seemed like help was only given after fake claire went screaming for help. So maybe the real claire was part of the scheme? I have a hard time believing that she owned the furniture because if she did and was only rentin her villa to actors she would never allow her antique furniture to be played with like that! Great movie nonetheless! I enjoyed every second of it!

  94. And in response to the above commenter Kris, when it comes to love age is just a number. Without knowing clair was an actor it appeared that these two were similar in personality. Both eccentric and reclusive. Sometimes when two people have things like that in common they are drawn to each other reguardless of age. Claire appeared to be mid twenties. Pedophelia was certainly nothing that entered my mind. Claire embodied femininity, beauty, and mystery. Very much like the women of his cherished paintings. And Virgil is a lonely man that’s never been with a woman before. Of course
    he would fall in love with her. The love making scenes were beautiful and sensual. All the more reason to feel bad for Virgil in the end. But on the other hand look at how curt and rude he was to everyone? He was a thief himself! He deserved it in some respect. Im watching the movie again now since I think my husband would like it too.

  95. I was thinking…maybe because he didn’t tell Claire about the automota that was found in her house, that he kept it a secret. That she felt he loved her artwork more than her. And after that she knew she would always be #2 to his art collections.

  96. Late to see this movie but as some have pointed out it is hard to watched the tragedy unfold. Unlike most crowd I don’t mind sad and sometime immoral, or awkward stories. There is always a part of truth in these stories that everyone will have leaved at some point in there life, and perhaps it is why many don’t like watching such movies, a sort of survival denial. But for some reason this movie had a stronger sentiment of not being able to escape the tragedy where noting is left but Virgil inescapable memories.

    Two things I wanted to mention reading the other comments:

    First, it doesn’t matter if the art and furniture in the house can be traced or not because as it is shown at the end Virgil can’t actually go to the Police, and turn around when he’s just about to, because it is clear he has done more than his share of con artist work and thus all the furniture could have easily been borrowed since there was no plan to sale them in the first place, with little risk Virgil would expose his own mischiefs and completely loose is pride .

    Secondly, to respond to Kris, her age is quite intentional. It is all part of the scheme to portray Claire has inocent of the similar emotion Virgil was inexperienced with. It is to further emphasis the truth of their love, when all the biases of society about age are not present, and only is left pure love based on the things they share, their isolation towards the outside world, their loneliness. It is more easily convey when we see a big age difference then otherwise. Of course for Claire it’s all part of the deceit and part of the perfect fake, which further the tragedy sentiments at the end. She is not a teenager and perhaps this pedophilia projections most have upon such love as more to do with the viewer preconceived notion then the character themselves in the story, where none of that is actually depicted. If anything with this plot it should make us question how biased our minds are when Virgil in the end becomes the most innocent of them all as it is often the case when people get old and start to be abused and disrespected by the younger generations who have no notion yet of what it is to be older in a contemporary world.

    Also, nothing says in the movie that the automan is not the real thing. As they show many times in the movie, they don’t hesitate to spend a little to gain a lot more. Virgil collection was most likely a very large amount of real art pieces most likely surpassing the possible cost of a very rare automan. Another interpretation could be easily made that it’s a symbol of how Virgil lost his ability to spot the forgery when he was under the spell of a human emotional charged one, and the initial pieces could have been the real thing since he never sees the final built until all the deception is unveiled, to which point it no longer maters.

  97. So I have two questions:

    1. Was the groundskeeper in on this scheme? He said he worked for Claire’s parents for 10 years and never saw Claire. How is that possible? Was real Claire living in the pub that long and never visited her parents? And wouldn’t he have recognized that fake Claire just was an outsider renting?

    2. Was that really all Billy’s furniture he put there as props? If I was real Claire I’d be concerned watching all my furniture being taken out of the house…


  98. I loved this movie. To get more insight into the ending, i watched it over from beginning to end at least 3 times now to see if there was any mention of the pub before hand. Obviously i missed it. So i’ll be watching it again. Haha.

    The phrase that the automaton made by Richard: There is always something authentic concealed in every forgery. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’ll miss you, Mr. Oldman.

    Then Billy tells him that just about everything can be faked… even love, pain, illness, recovery.

    Ironically when VO let his guard down is when the fake friends took over. Loved glossed over his keen eye for forgeries. He didn’t go to the Po because he took part in a scam with Billy over the paintings he bought from him over the years.

    There should be a sequel to this. Lets say, VO bounces back and has another collection going. Believing he is never to find love again. Although this time it is real. A woman in her 40’s who admired and cared for him while he was recovering. Of course, now he knows that feelings can also be faked, he keeps his distance. And thru time, finds the paintings and repurchases them. And Claire is still lingering in and out of his mind through out the months, years. Now and then he’ll catch a glimpse of fake Claire and Robert (who are a married couple by now with a child). A small pin prick of pain in his eyes as he looks away and continues on his way, trying to forget. It’ll be a tragedy. Haha. Send royalty checks to me. Haha jk. Maybe it turns out the child is his and only to find out at the end when the child comes to visit after ma/pa pass on. It could go so many ways.

  99. Why was everything moved in and out of the house so many times (did dwarf Claire say something like 251 times?)? I believe dwarf Claire said she rented it to actors … repeatedly? Was this an ongoing scam? I am still trying to piece together the whole picture.

  100. Why was the furniture moved in and out of the house so many times (251?). Dwarf Claire seemed to indicate she rented the house to “actors” repeatedly. Was this an ongoing scam w/different victims?

    1. It was false Claire who had been in and out of the house over 200 times. Real Claire said the furniture had been moved in and out 3 times.

  101. There is some connection between Robert’s machinist occupation and the pub scene in the end of the movie. The clock mechanisms. I know it was referenced by Imposter Claire as a place she liked but that was probably not even based on truth. I wondered if Robert wasn’t more affiliated with the pub’s interior design and function. Maybe it was part of his work. Maybe he was waiting for Robert or incidentally, pseudo Claire.

  102. Excellent Film!! Never saw it coming …lead me to conclude “The Director” was Billy the whole time and Claire hiding behind a pseudonym in regards to her writing was clever..yet if I was Virgil I would have asked to witness that particular piece of “art” as well…. I sort of wanted to be greedy in the film continuing on with him in Prague catching them in yet another scheme…

  103. I, too, wondered about the groundskeeper. But since this whole thing was ‘staged’, it makes sense he was just an additional paid prop. Real Claire chose to live next door above the Pub to be around people, to dwell in a familiar area, to be near her home & collect its rent from the actors. Billy probably paid her up front anyway, a year’s worth of rent. She would not care about the furniture, since she could have sold off the antiques or had them placed in storage elsewhere. A disgruntled Virgil had shouted out to fake Claire that the furnishings were just mediocre after all. Billy had provided this stuff, prior. He didn’t miss a beat. Otherwise real Claire would have questioned their removal since she’s living right next door. I don’t know if the Pub folks were ‘in’ on the ruse…I think they were all too busy being amazed & entertained at that particular pub by the savant, real Claire.

  104. Not to go to deep into this movie but I think the main point is that Virgil was unconsciously in on the scam too. Virgil lived a forgery. He dyed his hair cheated his clients and hid behind a well crafted rigid facade that allowed him to move freely between two states of being…night and day…what is in the light and what hides in the dark. Virgil walked into the scam but could not see it as it was too close to who he was and how he lived his life. It was so familiar he could not recognize it or if he had some small inclination he ignored it. The one thing that’s also telling is Virgil couldn’t help but keep the automation secret, even while be professed to love Claire. He loved Claire as he loved his paintings. His love was possessive, manipulate and simulated. The ending reminded me of The love song of J Alfred Proofrock where time moves forward while we suffer the obsession with the illusion of a projected self. In conclusion I think the movie is pointing out that we are all, ultimately self serving assholes.

    1. I just watched this movie. Such a sad movie, we are all paralyzed by our idiosyncrasies. I loved the movie, and thought the ending was he hoped to capture Clair coming in the door. That will never happen! Sadly he was deceived, but he was not a good man. Billy just wanted to be recognized as a credible artist. Years of resentment obviously wanted Billy to covet the paintings. Painful lessons learned.
      The movie was beautifully done!

  105. I am very interested in the beautiful interior wall frescoes at the villa. I looked up Villa Mainardis in Gorizzo, Italy that is listed as THE villa for this movie but all photos show plain white walls. I was not able to find any other information or even references to the villa’s interior which is hard to imagine since they were so magically ethereal and spectacular. Where these interiors just movie magic or do they exist somewhere?

  106. What puzzles me is that no one has touched on the crux of the “heist”. The moment any of those paintings from Virgil’s collection went up for auction he would know of it because of his contacts in the art world. Though some were officially “owned” by Billy, some may have not since Virgil had been collecting his entire life. Certainly not all of them had been purchased through his ruse with Billy. So either it wasn’t done for money (since they can’t liquidate the art into cash) but for revenge, or to teach him a lesson.

    It all seems a very expensive, time consuming project to steal art you’ll never be able to sell. Although I suppose they could sell it on the black market or through other means. It certainly doesn’t make for the idea of a quick get away, it’s not like they made off with bags of cash.

    It makes the most sense that Billy, with the help of the others, did it to get back at Virgil or to help him grow as a person. Whether done out of spite or out of love it seems a very convoluted way to send someone a message.

    I agree with the person who said the movie is like an art installation. It is not going to make sense outside of the bubble of itself. It was put together to evoke a feeling, an array of symbolism to decode, which stimulates thought about the nature of reality, relationships, etc. and also reveals or mirrors what is held in the viewer’s psyche through his/her interpretation. A think piece of sorts, which does not work along the lines of linear logic but within itself.

    The movie was beautiful visually. I watched it twice. The soundtrack was divine. I did feel a bit sad for Virgil and betrayed on his behalf, but then I read what people posted about how he cheated people of their artwork.

    Well done but I did want a happy ending.

  107. Absolutely loved this movie…the fact we are all still thinking about it and chewing on it in our minds speaks volumes! A true work of art!

  108. Sincerely appreciate everyone’s comments – helped resolve most of my questions. I think the question of did going to Prague come before or after the hospital remains open to interpretation.

    Given that Virgil planned to retire and there is no evidence he planned to sell his collection, I assume he was wealthy. My question is why didn’t he hire a private detective to track down his longtime former friend Billy to get his collection back or get revenge? Further, a private detective could have tracked down false Clair – he could easily describe her and she went to the hospital after he was attacked so they might even have her on a security camera.

    I was surprised that Virgil’s household staff did not see the paintings removed from the house but Virgil said he regularly sent them home after dinner do the removal could have occurred at night.

    But since Robert was so mechanically and electronically proficient, why go through the elaborate scam? Billy knew about the secret room with the collection and could have got Richard into the house anytime Virgil travelled out of the country and Ruchard could have broken in.

    All said, I really enjoyed the movie. It was compelling, well acted, held my interest, and kept me thinking long after the movie was over.

  109. The real Claire was the director.(also the voice on the phone) She was the dwarf in the auto-man which was a metaphor for the fake Claire. Billy truly loved Virgil and took part in this forgery to get his friend Virgil laid for the first time and get him in the real world. beast movie I’ve seen in awhile.

  110. I just finished watching the movie on Netflix. I absolutely loved it. It was very different from what I usually watch. I believe that the groundskeeper was in on it because he said that he had been working for Claire and her parents for years but the real Claire was across the street the whole time. But what I don’t understand is why Robert was part of the scam. Virgil always complemented his work, so why did Robert work with Billy and betray Virgil? How did they even know each other anyway? And why did Virgil go to the Nighy and Day restaurant after he knew it was all a scam? Also, do you guys think that Robert, Billy, and Claire had something to do with Virgil being attacked and robbed?

  111. Did anyone feel weirded out when Claire says ‘I haven’t done this in centuries, I have forgotten how to do this’ with regards to putting on makeup? really thought she was some kind of automaton!!

  112. Not previously mentioned in the comments is that Virgil had ripped off Billy repeatedly out of an equal share of the proceeds of their crimes, and Billy had a motive to prove he could be the master fraudster and turn the tables on his friend who had been greedy in their jointly executed thefts. Remember Virgil and Billy were defrauding art sellers and the auction houses by Virgil misrepresenting the real value of the art and then having Billy buy them below their real value. But Virgil controlled the operations and only paid Billy a portion of the real value, keeping the art and the greater value for himself. There was no equal division of its real value.

    Billy did not really “legally” own the art as others mentioned because he obtained them through fraud. Neither did Virgil legally own them despite paying Billy because they had both obtained them through fraud against the auction house and the sellers.

    Virgil is not a victim of Billy’s in the end. He was a thief who not only defrauded sellers, the auction house, but even his co-conspirator. So when Billy turns the tables and steals it all, he is repaying Virgil for his greed in not fairly dividing the loot.

  113. Great insights everyone! We loved the movie too – suspense the whole way through. Pity it is not more widely known.

    One observation that no one has brought up: at one point in the film Virgil is in the mansion and comes across an “antique” portrait of a woman that had some mechanical cogs in the lower right part of the frame, which were positioned in much the same way as those found by Virgil in the mansion. Either this was a real painting and it was just an amazing coincidence that: 1) it had cogs positioned the same way as those found by Virgil in the house; 2) that the painting would contain cogs at all (a very unusual addition for a portrait); and 3) that it just happened to be a portrait of a woman, which would have obviously attracted Virgil’s attention given his interest in this style of painting (he glances dismissively at almost everything else in the house except for the only other portrait of a woman, Claire’s mother, which was a forgery by Billy), OR the painting was actually painted by Billy, showing not only that he had got the better of Virgil with respect to his professional acumen by creating a forgery that Virgil did not recognize as such (and also showing his talent as painter, something that Virgil had dismissed out of hand), and further, that he could rub Virgil’s nose in it and trump his intelligence by presenting Virgil with a tantalizing clue to the greater deception that Billy had set up but which Virgil does not grasp.

  114. The tell is in the denouement. Geoffrey Rush is the actor of a thousand subtleties, and they are brought to bear in the final minute of this film. He was looking for Claire Ibbetson, as evidenced by his final four-word response to the waiter’s question: “I’m waiting for someone.” How LONG he was willing to wait was divulged in the name of the restaurant, “Day and Night.” In the end, he knew who he was, what he was about. Ennio Morricone is as understated as a composer, as Rush is as an actor. During Virgil’s brief walk to the restaurant, Morricone gives us a discordant dirge, slow and unsettling. At the restaurant’s threshold, however, the composer, anthem-like, brings us into consonance, as if to say that if the protagonist is to have any peace whatsoever, it will be in the bitter sweetness … of memory.

  115. I loved the message behind Billy’s painting. As Virgil is finally taking the dancer picture into his room to add to his collection of loved art works it’s just too perfect how ironic it is that probably his most loved piece of art so far, was not a forgery by hand but by meaning.

  116. A very interesting movie. It occurs to me that the film itself is cheap art in that it is an inauthentic representation of life. That is, the film is like the clockwork automaton. The only real emotions are in us, the audience, except that the filmmakers may have a small touch of sympathy for the Virgil character. It surely prompts interesting thought and discussion.

  117. We just saw the movie tonight and I was fascinated by it, and I found this site with all your interesting interpretations. For what it’s worth, here’s mine:

    Billy was the mastermind, and he knew that it would take an elaborate ruse to get Virgil to let his guard down, not just a pretty young woman willing to go to bed with him. Based on his knowledge of Virgil’s hangups, he helped fake Claire, who was undoubtedly an actress, craft her character. It’s far too convenient to be a coincidence that her supposed agoraphobia dovetails perfectly with Virgil’s cleanliness phobia.

    Whatever money the real Claire may have had, it was long gone by the time Virgil arrived and she was reduced to renting out the villa to film crews to cover her probably minimal upkeep at the pub. Since film crews coming in and out were a fairly regular occurrence, the presence of Virgil and his crew wouldn’t have raised that much suspicion.

    The “art” that was in the villa when Virgil arrived was authentic (it would have to be or he wouldn’t have been taken in) but fairly low value, the sort of stuff that some wealthy people collect because it suits their mood rather than for its resale value. Billy probably located it and either bought or rented it. It was moved in before Virgil arrived, moved out by Virgil’s crew, moved back in after fake Claire said she couldn’t bear to sell it, and then moved back out to return it to its original locales.

    The automoton was real and probably something Billy or Robert found at some point before the scam started. In fact, finding the automoton might really have been the inspiration for the entire scam. Just like Virgil bought up valuable art through the auction scams because no one else knew it was valuable, Billy or Robert may have been able to purchase it for a pittance because the owner didn’t realize what he had. Once they had it, Robert took it apart and had the groundskeeper plant bits and pieces from time to time to keep up Virgil’s interest. They needed the automoton to keep Virgil interested until they had time to build up Claire’s story. Virgil undoubtedly realized the rest of the “collection” was only of minimal value and the only reason he stayed around originally was in the hopes of finding the rest of the automoton.

    All in all, a fascinating movie. I love movies involving long cons, and, although I started to guess what was happening about 2/3 of the way through, some of the twists were still quite clever.

  118. Disagree with those who say that Billy was the ” owner” of the paintings that Oldham had in his secret room because he bought them at the auctions. I believe he was merely acting as an agent for Oldman bidding on the paintings using Oldman’s money. Oilman then paid him a fee for his services once the paintings were procured.

  119. Just watched this magnificent movie for the second time and have a few thoughts: first, the real ending of the movie had Virgil residing at the mental hospital a broken man. The scene at the pub in Prague was but one of many flashbacks, including the love scenes with Claire. Virgil came to associate Claire as a work of art much like his hidden portraits. Once his obsession with her kicked in he removed his gloves to touch her….something he only previously did with fine art. There is some dispute over whether the calls from the “director” we’re actually Billy. Another explanation is that being a writer, her conversation was about rewriting some final chapters might well have been with the director of her publishing house. Finally if Billy’s plot was to steal Virgil’s paintings why did he return the $8 million painting to Virgil? He could have kept it for himself with Virgil being none the wiser. It wouldn’t have interfered with his scam of Virgil one way or another.

  120. My opinion and this makes sense to me:

    It was a setup from day one. Cold, cruel and viciously calculated down to the finest detail. Which says to me that there was a profound amount of hatred and resentment from Billy.

    First though:

    The furniture.. If it was moved in then it wouldn’t have been Claire’s to begin with; 3 times the furniture was moved in. This is the only part that troubles me.. Making me sense that the real Claire was in on it too. Because it is so cold and calculated laced with bitter revenge that she is the salt rubbed into the burn of the forgery.. Making him feel mad with torturous confusion.

    “Re-quoted by an earlier post” But what about the automaton? Was it real?

    They wanted for sure to capture the attention of Virgil so that he would visit the villa very often in order to collect all the missing pieces…i guess also that they knew that Virgil studied Vaucanson automaton when he was a student…so did Robert already knew how to connect all the pieces?Did the actors owned this precious construction?

    Imagine if this automaton belonged to the ancestors of the short lady across the villa? This would fit perfectly the scenario which says that a little man could fit into the bottom of the automaton….but this would be so good to be true i guess!!! “Re-quoted by an earlier post”

    I think it was a convenient coincidence with the dwarfs that worked in their favor to mislead Oldman.

    They did know he studied Vaucanson automaton .. Know your prey..

    Claire led him to Prague because of the automation. She was never there, she never lived there. A cold cruel ending with an I told you so basically. Surrounding him with his own demise.

    It wouldn’t be such a profound coincidence that she “happened” to live in a place where this restaurant is.

    Perversely he was set up to relieve the richness of this deceit over and over. Claire will never show up. I doubt she cared for him it was all a forgery perfectly played out. She displayed a brief emotion of guilt that’s all.

    He was the horse with blinders the automate was the golden carrot.

    Fine art valued at BILLIONS mixed with revenge equals legendary movie..

    I think he definitely realized all this and wound up trapped in his defeat. If he is waiting he is waiting for revenge and replays it to keep him going. She never showed and they “won” and he went totally bonkers lol

  121. Billy needed Virgil’s trust to pull this off.. Billy needed Virgil’s validation to be recognized as an artist.. It wasn’t about the money anymore.

  122. This is why I think he went to the restaurant called “night and day” at the end of the movie. Immediately after the robbery we see him in the mental house unable to speak but having flashbacks of life since meeting Claire. The last scene was his last flashback. The waiter asked “will you be dining alone?” His reply” no, I’m waiting for someone.” That was “tinker boys” restaurant and he was waiting for Claire and her BF to come in. He’ll wait day and night forever he doesn’t care. When they finally appear. BANG YOUR DEAD. The witnesses say he’s been sitting there day and night for weeks and he goes to mental house. THE END.

  123. I just loved everything about this movie. In my point of view I believe Virgil in some sense believed he would meet Claire again, that is the reason he relocated to Praga and went to the Day and Night Restaurant that she told him about it.
    When he showed her the secret room, her eyes were closed and she did not see the code, but maybe she had hiding câmeras installed there when he wasn’t home and the movie diânt show us.
    Other fact strange was when the little Clair call the # for help Virgil after the attack and nobody never showed up.
    I believe Billy, Claire, Robert and girlfriend, housekepper were involved with the scam . I also see Claire and Robert as real boyfriend and girlfriend walk in at Night and Day and Virgil just sitting there …

  124. Did anyone else get a Pygmalion and Galatea vibe from this movie? Virgil didn’t have any interest in women except for his paintings. He only showed interest once he found a lump of clay that he thought he could/had molded into a masterpiece. This movie has so much depth, I love it.

  125. Greetings, just watched The Best Offer on Netflix and was really drawn in by it (ha!) No, I enjoyed it very much. I thought of two possible interpretations of the final scene: 1) Virgil is hopelessly waiting for Claire to appear but she never will and he is broken for life; but 2) is quite different: in spite of being conned and betrayed, he has ‘taken off his gloves’, entered the world, loved a woman and made love with her… so he may be sitting in the cafe waiting for the arrival of a true relationship with just the normal amount of delusion! Hope you’ll be happy Virgil…Paula in Richmond, CA

  126. I enjoyed reading everyone’s theories. I have a different take on the movie. The movie is a painting in and of itself. You can appreciate it at face value or delve deeper. It has surreal parts and realistic aspects and it promotes deeper thought.

    The overall theme of the movie to me personally is this: Do you know what it’s like to lovingly restore a painting, only to find that it’s a forgery? Now you do. It’s like coaxing a beautiful, nervous woman out of an old, locked room, falling in love with her, and then having her rip your heart out by leaving you and stealing from you. It’s like your best friend pulling the wool over your eyes and signing the back of a portrait like it was a greeting card. It’s like a young man seducing many women, completely cheapening the women and missing their real worth.

    Virgil doesn’t tell Claire that he has the pieces to the automaton because she is not the owner. Claire is the woman in the painting that he is restoring from the beginning of the movie. He is coaxing Claire out of a dark, sad room into the light of day where everyone can appreciate her beauty. He gets her into a pretty dress and has her put on make-up. “I haven’t done this in centuries,” she sobs. He spends a lot of time and emotional energy restoring her. Robert is helping Virgil restore the painting, but he is an automaton, merely going through the motions. He doesn’t truly appreciate the value of art or of this particular painting. Claire is just another woman to Robert (and just another painting). The painting of Claire’s “mother” is another painting in the same collection. Some pieces of art should be “kept together, always together.” The picture may or may not have been forged and planted by Billy, who may have wanted Virgil to see his painting in context.

    There are clues in the environment that indicate the history of the Claire painting. That is where he gets the information about the night and day cafe and the clock tower in Prague. He scours the villa looking for clues as to what the history of the painting is.

    Claire is often injured. First, she was in a car accident. Then, she fell and hit her head. Then, she dropped a glass and cut her foot. Then, she was drenched in water in the bathtub. This is depicting the damage “Claire the painting” had endured throughout the centuries. Virgil will do anything to fix her.

    I think this explains some of the strange parts. A person would not have a huge, museum size room in his closet, no matter how wealthy that person is. Claire is taken to Virgil’s favorite restaurant and looks beautifully made up even though she used to be afraid of open spaces. She’s in the restaurant because Virgil has a habit of carrying his paintings around.

    In the end, finding out that the painting is a forgery is heartbreaking to Virgil. He’s only left with this automaton, which is not beautiful and is only made to fool people into thinking that it can think and talk. No one could understand this loss unless they loved art and had invested so much in restoring the Claire the painting.

  127. I don’t think the final scenes are intended to be a figment of Virgil’s imagination as suggested by some. They are actual. His mental recovery is implied previously as he spins himself about in the therapeutic gyro machine exerciser. Operating the exercise machine he is ironically suggestive of the dwarf that was supposed to have once hidden in the mechanism of the Vaucson automaton…

    Virgil’s breakdown had occurred upon being swindled. In that earlier scene he discovers the automaton sitting in his looted art vault. A wax cylinder recording of Virgil’s own voice inhabits the automaton.

    In the final scene Virgil is seated among the geared mechanisms that are on display in the pub. For a third time he is the man in the machine. Only now, he is most real. He is not the solitary dwarf in the mechanism; he has many companions, the other patrons in the pub, the world at large, all dealing with the experience of truth and reality.

    Virgil’s reconstructed automaton is obviously a clever but worthless forgery of an actual Vaucson. And even the genuine Vaucson was itself only a clever mimic of a real human. But recall the intriguing characteristic of the historic automaton as described by Virgil: whether machine or dwarf, it was always reputed to have supplied the correct answer. A neat trick for either machine or man.

  128. I was expecting Clair was a robot. A decrepit villa amid the skyscrapers was also in “Metropolis”, and the light that swept through Roberts shop was like the light sweeping through Deckards apartment in “Blade Runner”. When I saw the foul looking automaton in Virgils secret room, I decided this was just another “humanoid robots r bad” movie, like the dispicable “Her” and “Exmachina”. Sutherland was in a horror sci-fi film about foul automatons, “Virus” probably the most horrific images I’ve ever seen. But see it!
    A lifesize painting or sculpture of a beautiful woman is %100 heavenly, but if she can move – she’s evil? Thanks filmakers
    Here’s the happy ending to “The Best Offer”, a great film that deserves a happy ending- Virgil has a lifesize love doll made to perfectly replicate Claire. Likes it so much he spends a few millon on an automated version. Lives hapily ever after with her.

  129. This movie haunts me..

    Like looking at an artwork or a painting, one can have many different reaction. But here I spotted a few sliver ..

    The beat up scene was staged by Virgil. When he was pushed along in the hospital, his eyes peeked over and smiled when he saw Claire there.

    It was about love. The only love he had with women was the paintings on the wall of his secret room. He asked what is it like being married for 30 years, and was told .. Like in an auction house, you never know if you got the Best Offer. He did not get married which will generally bleed out the love. He found love which replaces all the pictures and even without the body.. just pure love in his heart.

  130. When Claire gets a call from “The Director” when Virgil is in her room, she tells mentions that she’s wants to “rewrite the the last chapter. A more … upbeat ending.” Assuming “The Director” is Billy, I believe this is speaking from Claire’s actual fondness of Virgil, and feels bad for what is in store for him.

  131. If fake claire has entered the villa about 231 times during a year and half as mentioned by dwarf claire, why did she spend all this time there? As an actor she had to be there just before the scam starts. No?

  132. I cannot believe how many so-called professional reviewers have missed the point of this movie by insisting that the plot is “unbelievable… a stretch” and therefore shouldn’t be praised. Realism clearly is not what this movie is about. It’s an emotional journey, a raw emotional fable, and I was with Virgil all the way until the very end DESPITE all the obvious symbolism. That is quite a feat. The not-so-subtle symbolism served as a reminder that I was watching something that wasn’t real, I was fully aware of this being a movie, a work of art that I was scrutinizing pretty much in the same way that Virgil was scrutinizing works of art in his universe, and guess what: I was still devastated to find that he had been betrayed. I was still hurt to find that a dishonest man, a person who chose fake life (art) over real life, a person who could spot anything fake a mile away, had been betrayed by and, ultimately, destroyed. Isn’t it ironic that a forgery (Claire) can be the only real thing is an expert’s life?

    This movie made me think, which is what separates art from non-art, even when it’s fake as some reviewers have called it. If this movie is a fake, I don’t care, because I love it the way Virgil loved his fake first love. If you can pull that off as a director, I think you’re the real deal.

  133. I cannot believe how many so-called professional reviewers have missed the point of this movie by insisting that the plot is “unbelievable… a stretch” and therefore shouldn’t be praised. Realism clearly is not what this movie is about. It’s an emotional journey, a raw emotional fable, and I was with Virgil all the way until the very end DESPITE all the obvious symbolism. That is quite a feat. The not-so-subtle symbolism served as a reminder that I was watching something that wasn’t real, I was fully aware of this being a movie, a work of art that I was scrutinizing pretty much in the same way that Virgil was scrutinizing works of art in his universe, and guess what: I was still devastated to find that he had been betrayed. I was still hurt to find that a dishonest man, a person who chose fake life (art) over real life, a person who could spot anything fake a mile away, had been betrayed and, ultimately, destroyed. Isn’t it ironic that a forgery (Claire) can be the only real thing in an expert’s life?

    This movie made me think, which is what separates art from non-art, even when it’s fake as some reviewers have called it. If this movie is a fake, I don’t care, because I love it the way Virgil loved his fake first love. If you can pull that off as a director, I think you’re the real deal.

  134. The movie would have been more palatable if Virgil was not so likable. Remember Gregory Peck’s character in “The Boys from Brazil”? Peck, who always played the protagonist, made himself so detestable that it was easy to accept him getting killed in that gruesome manner. But Virgil! He was a lonely man, bound to fall in love in the entrapment. Did he deserve this convoluted, sorrowful ending even though he was greedy? Even so, he didn’t steal from the rich, he just lied to them so that he can get rich later. And he was an orphan too. This certainly was not a feel good story. The real villains were Billy and his gang in an elaborate, almost impossible to believe “long con”. I expect a “Better Offer ” part II to come: “Even Better Offer”.

  135. amazingly haunting and creepy movie with incredible sets. I loved it. What a sad ending for a man who actually had begun to find his way, albeit that he hurt many along the way before his life changed.

  136. I don’t know if anyone has already noticed this (and if this could be noticeable): Virgil doesn’t let fake Claire open her eyes until the vault door is open. So the only way one can get the safe combination is to record the sounds of the pressed keys…

    1. Not necessarily. We never see her as Virgil hits the numbers into the keypad. She probably looked but Virgil, in his excitement of showing Claire the room, and his now complete trust of her, would have no doubt that she would comply. I seemed to me that Claire, was memorizing the code just before she stepped into the room. However, your theory holds water also, maybe she did commit the code tones to memory.

  137. Great movie. Watched it twice then after a year, watched it again with a fresh look, and the pieces fit together much much better. A lot of the comments here are dead on.

    First off…. After seeing this the last time it suddenly dawned on me that this movie itself is pretty much a “forgery” of another movie called Vertigo, by master of suspense and mystery, Alfred Hitchcock. This is where it becomes not only ironic, but almost blatant. If you remember the line in First Offer where he mentions that in every forgery, the forgerer leaves a bit of themselves in the forgery. In Vertigo, the psychological disorder was vertigo, not agoraphobia. The plot is almost the same only in vertigo, it was about murder, not theft. And like in Best Offer, the character winds up piecing the truth together at the end. Both movies reference the man being duped falls deeply in love with a woman who actually has feelings for him in return. But not enough to stop her from deceiving him in the end. Watch the movie Vertigo and you’ll see the stark similarities to Best Offer. Even the music is a throwback.

    Second, there’s another sense of irony in best offer in that while on one hand Geoffrey Rush has intense love for Claire, he obviously didn’t love her enough to admit he was stealing the automaton from her piece by piece. So, even tho the fake Claire obviously genuinely cared for him, she was justified in continuing the ruse and leaving him. He loved the idea of having the automaton more than he loved her. Which is why it was such a twist of irony for them to leave him the automaton behind in his vault. That was a kind of, “well, you got what you loved the most Virgil.” Revenge is best served cold. Had he not kept his pilfering from her a secret, maybe she wouldn’t have gone through with the scam? Who knows? But he didn’t. So, he got exactly what he gave in the end. She stole from him too.

    Ultimately, it’s a love story, a character study on the true nature and greed of man (and woman), and justice for deeds done wrong, even if all characters are likable but imperfect. Every major character seemed to genuinely like the other characters, but greed and love of money ruled in the end. Classic. Everyone was likeable, but no one was COMPLETELY trustworthy.

    So, to shorten it up. This movie is a forgery of Vertigo itself and unashamedly so since it’s a movie about forgery. There are blatant references to it. And Vertigo was likely not an original either. Certainly it was based off of Hitchcock’s own experiences or bits and pieces of others books or movies. What’s that line that goes, “there are no more original thoughts?” And the moral of the story and the movie is, never completely trust anyone. In the end, we all in some way or another are looking out for ourselves first. Absolute altruism doesn’t exist (well, except for maybe Jesus…and maybe toward our own children… But even then). Even when we are completely generous to others, don’t we do that because it makes us feel good about ourselves? Aren’t we in a way Taking or getting something out of it? And yes, even marriages hide secrets. That’s why so few of them last. 🙂 It’s in our nature folks. But we can still love and trust others (with one eye open, always… Lol). That’s life. That’s the lesson. Both Vertigo and this are great movies. Now I think I’m going to watch Vertigo again… Lol. Try watching it if you haven’t already. It’s a great movie. Left me with the same feeling as this one even if it is slightly different.

  138. I loved this movie but I think the ending was too abrupt. I would like to have seen all the clocks in the restaurant slowly come to a stop as the scene fades back to the distraught Virgil in the rotating machine at the asylum simultaneously slowing down.
    The scene at the ‘Night & Day’ becomes a dream sequence and yet another deception; thus showing us that the ultimate forgeries are constructed in our own minds.

  139. This film was incredible. I watched it for the first time yesterday and I am sure I will be watching it again and again.

    Reading this discussion has made a couple of plot point clear for me. Apart from one that nobody has mentioned. Why did fake Claire tell Virgil that she hates dyed hair as it makes people seem inauthentic, when she herself had highlighted hair throughout the movie. Was she trying to give him a clue?

    I think the scene in the nursing home is the immediate aftermath of the shock, and he then leaves and moves to Prague. It broke my heart to see his future laid out in front me. Living in that darkly furnished apartment with the dancer as the only piece of art, and sitting at the clock cafe every day with 2 place settings, waiting for fake Claire. This is how he will live out his retirement.

  140. This movie is a masterpiece and is going far beyond the considered ‘scam’.Poster ‘Dunpeal’ posted some interesting theories about it before.

    The protagonist was a succefull auctioneer that suffered a form of Alzheimer/dementia at the end of his life. His lifelong assistant visited him in the nursery home.

    I.M.O the room [an enclosed space, with a lock on it, even Claire couldn’t ‘see’ the code] filled with paintings [picture postcards] = a representation of his mind.
    He visits the room at night, in his dreams.

    In time these images faded away [Alzheimer],only stains are left on the blank walls. Are these pictures of people – or pictures of art?
    This type of duality play all along the movie.

    In the corner on one side the robot [masks/clowns are reocurring themes in art, a role he plays as auctioneer] placed on a dice [chance, uncertainty principle]. Inside the dice is just a loop of the same message, it doesn’t matter what number you throw, all the same.

    On the other side a painting, which is mere surface [picture-memory of Claire, his wife], with a message on the back from Billy [children’s name for Bill, representing himself].

    Both Claire’s are his wife and daughter.
    He was never beaten thar night on the street, this is his imagination at work. His wife calls the hospital, cause he gets too sick at a certain stage of his illness, he recognizes her face in the hospital.

    His wife [little Claire scene] behind a system of memory sincerely smiles talking about her husband.

    The italian village, the workshop are all fragments[like movieprops]. This is also how it was shot, empty streets, gloomy atmosphere.
    Not like something taking place in real time. The house was a representation of his own home, figurative.
    Reducing space, eventually talking to walls, to his imagination.

    Lost in the park searching for his wife.[Lost in memories]

    The gyroscopic machine in which he is spinning [His thoughts] , again imagination.

    Final stage.
    [Imagination, A time-clock disguised as a bar ‘day and night’in a place of happy memory, a sunny day in Prague]
    [Reality] The Time-machine is decoration for a place in which you can eat and drink, waiting for someone to pass by.
    His time in the nursery home.

  141. There are some beautiful symbolic scenes. The shot running through the empty chapel inside the house, birds flying.

    Little Claire telling that he build her an elevator [placing her higher in importance], somebody coming over to ask her questions, answering with mathematical facts
    [interview about husband].

    The auction of the Cubist painting of a woman by Picasso [wife], mistaken for some old stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *