2015年4月3日 星期五

Mita Tova (Farewell Party) (安樂死派對)

The second film of the evening is also about death, a most weighty subject. But from the way Tal Granit and Sharon-Maymon treated the subject, Mita Tova (Farewell Party) (安樂死派對), co-written and co-directed by them, it does seem that it's at quite some distance from heaviness. This is evident from the very first scene. An old man in front of a table full of paraphernalia for welding is speaking on a phone to someone else. He says, in an obviously machine-produced low frequency voice that he is Elohim (Jewish for God) and that there is no vacancy in heaven for the party at the other end of the line and that despite her difficulties and suffering, she must try her best to hold on and receive the treatment and adds that her husband says hello to her from heaven, when she's single! On the other side of the line, we see an old lady who says that she has been diagnosed with cancer and doesn't want to live. But there's a hiccup. In the middle of the conversation, the old lady hears what appears to be a woman's voice asking Elohim where she placed her things.Then it hung up. The old woman dialed up Elohim's number asking to speak to God. A female voice told her to wait because Elohim was at the toilet! After the hiccups, Elohim resumed the telephone conversation and continued to pep talk the old lady.

Elohim's voice belongs to Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach) and the interrupting female voice belongs to that of his wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein) who is beginning to show increasing signs of being affected by Alzheimer's disease. Both of them are occupants of a nursing  home in Israel where reside also their friends including amongst others, Rohama (Hanna Rieber), Raphael Tabor (Raffi Tavor.) We are shown Yehezkel, Levana accompanying Yana to see Yana's bedridden husband at the hospital attached to the retirement home. Yana raises hell with the reception because they refuse to give her another nappy on the ground that she already got one just a while ago. Yehezkel has to help turn Yana's husband over to change his nappy. Yana's husband begs to die instead of having his suffering needlessly prolonged. Yehezkel then goes to see the hospital doctor but is told that he cannot help but gives him a tip on who might be able to do so, a certain Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar). They go to find him. Dr. Daniel is swimming in the pool. They wait. Yana remarks that if they wait for him to reach the edge of the pool before being able to talk to him, her husband would already have died.  They both jump into the pool and make contact. Dr. Daniel says that he can certainly help because he has done so he doesn't know many times before, for dogs. He is a veterinarian. He tells Yehezkel what to use and for how long. But they have a difficulty. For dogs, the drug can be injected by others in the body but for man, the patient must do it himself.

Yehezkel is next seen talking to his relative who is a policeman who owes him a favor and asks him if the latter can be a witness to when the patient gives his consent but is told that that would make him an accomplice to a murder! So Yehezel has to figure out a way to do so without breaking the law. He starts working at the workshop which he sold to his former employee. After some hiccups, the project is completed: the machine can be accommodated inside an ordinary looking metallic brief case. Then we see them swing into action. They first videotape the Yana's husband Max saying his last words and his desire to terminate his suffering by pressing on the one-push button, bid farewell to his loved one and then presses the botton. There was a hiccup. For some mysterious reason, the machine causes a short circuit and the room goes dark. Then after some fiddling, the machine goes back into operational mode. And it goes smoothly.

They attend the funeral. The word got passed around at the nursing home. Soon Yehezkel got one request after another.  An old man begs him to help and says it doesn't matter how much it would cost. He refuses. The man then threatens to turn them in to the police for they did to Max and then sits on a garden bench outside Yehezkel's unit all night waiting for him to say yes. Then the following morning they hear on a radio that an old man had shot first his wife and then himself. The group of friends then gossip amongst themselves about the incident at the greenhouse, their usual meeting point and Yehezkel expresses how nearly he was to agreeing to accede to the old man's request and how sorry he is that he did not. At the moment he's saying that, the old man who previously asked him to do so suddenly appears at the door of the green house. The next we see is that they all go to the old man's house, taking the self-activating euthanasia machine with them, do the video and the old woman passes away. At the time she does, a whole choir was singing outside although the man promised them that he would make no fuss about his wife's planned demise. 

The next user of the machine is the old lady we see talking to Yehezkel at the opening scene, who is already 90. The film ends when Yehezel's wife expresses the wish to terminate her own life. She is losing her memory, always misplacing things and sometimes can't even recognize her own husband. At first, Yehezel refuses and destroys the machine. Their daughter also objects. But when he sees how Levana has become a human vegetable, he sets about rebuilding a new one. Before Levana presses the button, she goes through all the videos of the previous euthanasia exercises and then calmly presses the botton, with Yehezel's face hugging hers. The film ends. But before that, we are shown how behind Yehezkel's back, Levana is looking actively into going to some other old people's home for those people who can't look after themselves any more, how Levana would start eating things picked up from a trash can, how she attempts a suicide by swallowing a huge amount of pills, how Dr. Daniel develops a relationship with another old man and how both of them with Yana would sit naked in the green house in the middle of the night just to have some "fun" despite their "age". .

What is most unusual about this film is the way Tal Granit and Sharon-Maymon are able to introduce, not philosophical discussion about the meaning of life, the legal and moral issues involved in euthanasia but by concrete images in very specific circumstances, the absurdity of artificially prolonging the life of people who are obviously suffering from great pain, of people who no longer have any meaningful use of what most distinguishes a human being from a mere animal, viz, the use of his mind, and who has had all that they ever wanted from life and is prepared to go, peacefully, painlessly and with dignity and above all, to do so in a manner which is not cold and clinical, but warm, compassionate, warm and humorous. I like in particular the Jewish song sung by this very close group of old men and old women about how all life must eventually end with its joys and its sorrows in an endlessly repeated cycles, which seems to transcend the need for all forms of moralizing. In that regard, the credit is due to Avi Belleli . Certainly a film which sets us thinking, not the fairy-tale like prospect of a resurrection after our physical death, but the very real issues of how to face our eventual demise when our powers to think, to feel and to live like a human being fade with each passing day, like the colors off an old photograph, and eventually desert us altogether in our last terrestrial days.  

For his role in the film, Ze'ev Revach, won the best actor award by the Israeli Film Academy 2014 and Levana Finkelstein won the best actress award at the Haifa International Film 2014 and the Valladolid International Film Festival and Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon won the BNL People's Choice Award at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.