Sunday, 4 August 2013


(Alan Berliner; USA)

Quietly remarkable and devastating. The subject of the documentary, Edwin Honig, is fully within the grip of Alzheimers, and yet what is compelling is his lucidity in the face of a failing memory. A poet and translator, he still playfully engages in conversation while admitting that his memory has disappeared into 'a long endless thing.' Berliner breaks up the film by combining and tightly editing all conversations he had with his cousin, creating a simulation of sorts of memory itself. The recollection of conversations with others are often recalled not in chronological sequence, but in a fragmented re-ordered narrative that is never quite the same each time. Clearly the parallels between memory and film are obvious, but Berliner does a great justice to his film by not heavy-handedly jamming this to the forefront of its themes. The ides of this film, or film in general, as an archive or repository for memory resides in the margins, a quiet reflection that hums gently throughout as we see repeated shots of Honig grappling with the poet he used to be and that he no longer seems to be able to access. His past now a strange story belonging to someone else, Honig is horrifyingly aware of what has been 'killed off' inside of him.

Yet, this is not a maudlin or weep-inducing portrait of an illness. For starters, stories of Honig's failings as a husband and father slowly unfold through the course of the film, inducing an emotional distance from the man. But what really makes the film transcendent is how Berliner's own curiosity and observation bleed through the film and infect the viewer. Rather than aiming for the cheap emotional weight of the debilitating aspects of Alzheimers, Berliner desires to understand how memory loss affects one's humanity, how one remains a human while undergoing a gradual erosion of potentially all that makes up one's life. It is this deep and quiet curiosity that makes the film so rich and engaging.

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