Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Vergiss mein nicht: 'Forget me not' A German film review

An adult son takes a few days from work to visit his parents' home to relieve his caretaker father from the grueling task of looking after his 71 year old mother who has end-stage Alzheimer disease. From this simple plot flows an intimate family portrait of the effects of Alzheimer on a German family.On a more sophisticated level, Vergiss mein nicht, which is German for 'Forget me not' is a introspective tale of mortality and human transition and how we negotiate this journey in the intersection of a family setting. We see first hand how a elderly woman loses her memory to the point of being unable to tell the difference between her own husband of 30 years her adult son. The pain of being forgotten in an instant by a loved out of mental disability brought on from an advanced disease couldn't be more stark. The almost complete memory loss by the filmaker's mother, except for a few flickers of memory such as being able to recognise her father, tell an intimate story of the struggle of a family to come to terms with a mother who can longer identify the closest people in her life or even recall the use of the most basic domestic tools. A painful moment in the film shows the filmaker's mother being told how to use a fork to pick on a tomato in a food bowl. The films provides some rich background of the filmaker's mother when she was a very pretty, young, politically-active wife of a young German mathematics lecturer in Zurich, Switzerland flashbacks from the 1960s and 1970s and cuts to the image of an elderly woman suffering from dementia who is much more at ease in sleep than awake with the inevitable outcome all but clear. The story touches on the interesting subject of monogamy in married unions. We learn from the filmaker's narration that her mother and father agreed on an 'open' relationship where they allowed each other to see other people when they were a young idealistic couple. From the woman's long-kept diary we learn she wasnt as tolerant of this open union as she let on. The unfairness of fates comes into play when we learn that 71-year old woman's mother in law (who is several years older) appears in better command of her physical and (certainly)mental faculties her being in a retirement home notwithstanding. The family debates whether to institutionalize their mother or to look after her at home with some very painful moral choices. Vergiss mein nicht will make you cry and laugh at the same time.

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