Thursday, 11/19/2020

Loss and mourning

Five films deal with experiences of loss within the family

Loss and mourning

Are we a happy family?

In a shot that’s full of camera shake, a little girl races up several flights of stairs, grabbing the handrail as she hurries along. The camera follows her frantically, repeatedly losing its focus on her. Arriving at the apartment, the girl hugs her father with relief. But he rejects her coldly.

The girl is not an actress, but a puppet in Daria Kashcheeva’s stop-motion film DAUGHTER. The fascinating imitation of a handheld camera allows us to probe the shattered relationship between the girl and her father. In flashbacks, the film tells of painful moments from the girl’s childhood. She was unable to connect with her father; likewise, his attempts to bond with her failed. What exactly happened is only hinted at, but it led to a loss of trust between the two. The traces of this loss are still evident today, when the daughter, now an adult, sits at her father’s deathbed and is haunted by her memories.

No less touching, but presented in a completely different way, is the stop-motion film I’M HERE by Julia Orlik. Here the camera is stationary and pointed at the upper body of a dying old woman. She’d like to say something, but only plaintive, wailing sounds come out of her mouth. Around her, we hear the family singing a birthday song or preparing food. While we see the woman’s face the whole time, we see only parts of the others’ bodies. They talk about her and to her, but she’s become only a passive member of the family. This cartoon tells of speechless despair in the face of death, which can be seen in the superbly modeled face of the dying woman.

A loss can also be associated with the transience of a place. This is the case in Pegah Moemen Attare’s documentary essay film GONE HOME, in which the director traces the memories of a place from her childhood that has long since faded. Her grandmother’s house in Tehran was torn down shortly after she and her family left the country. She talks to her mother again and again about the house, her grandmother, and her childhood. They watch old family videos, read letters aloud, and try to piece together the fragments of her memory. With each further conversation, the feeling of loss associated with their former home becomes ever more intense in this very touching and personal film.



No matter how bad the loss, life must somehow go on. The father in THE OTHER, a feature film by Saman Hosseinpuor and Ako Zandkarimi, has had to realize this since his wife’s death. He’s been looking after his daughter by himself. But how is life supposed to go on when there are more and more indications that his wife had a lover and that the daughter is not his? This film manages, without any dialogue, to tell the story of the grief and love of a man who wants to remove all doubt about his paternity, because without it there is nothing left in his life.

Mourning a loved one can go on for years. The feature film NEITHER FORGET, NOR FORGIVE is about an extraordinarily tragic death. The film is based on the true story of then 17-year-old activist Guillem Agulló, who was killed by fascists in 1993. Director Jordi Boquet tells the story from the perspective of Betlem, a young student who returns to her hometown of Valencia in 2003 to spend a few days with her family. But the city, her family’s house, and her friends from back then remind her at every turn of the sorrowful past, of the day when her brother was murdered out in the open. With a calm and unagitated narrative tone, the film makes it clear that time does not heal all wounds and that there are things that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.