The Farewell Party…a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

October 29, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

Some stories are particular to their place. This Israeli film might have been set in any western country.  

That does not detract from the narrative as focus is firmly on the story and strong performances.

Based on the best-selling novel by Katherina Hagena, the setting is a retirement community in Jerusalem. Yehezkel ( Ze’ev Revach)and wife Levana (Levana Finklestein) visit their good friend Max in hospital. He is terminal and in great pain and his wife Rohama (Hanna Rieber) asks Yehezkel to help end Max’s suffering. Enlisting the aid of Dr Daniel (Ilan Dar), a veterinarian with a stash of euthanasia drugs, they set to work.

Yehezkel is skilful with a blowtorch and builds a machine to help Max self- euthanase.

After Max’s funeral word gets around about the machine and others seek out their services , something which fast becomes a dilemma. As Levana observes “You are a murderer, not a serial killer.”

Intertwined is Levana’s descent into the grip of Alzheimer disease. She wants to move into a facility with proper care but Yehezkel is in denial and refuses to accept her solution. When he observes her placing her handbag in the freezer, he reluctantly starts to face the truth.

There have been several films about Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.  One acclaimed outing, Away from Her, with Julie Christie is perhaps more lyrical but the core of both stories is the love and relationship between long-married couples.

An illicit, gay affair provides distraction and only proves that relationships are complicated.   Friendship is celebrated. There is a lovely scene where three of the gang sit naked in a greenhouse in support of Levana who had so appeared in the communal dining room.

Comic, even whimsical, it is also dark in tone. Levana, as is often the way with women, accepts her inevitable fate. Nobody would want a miserable, drawn out death for a loved one. Whether it is acceptable to help the dying go quickly with dignity means ethics collide with emotions and notions of morality.

On second thoughts, maybe the two scenes with a traffic cop could only happen in Israel.

Israel 2014 95mins   Hebrew with English subtitles.

Starring Ze’ev Revach, Levana Finklestein, Hanna Rieber, Ilan Dar

Written and directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon

Screening soon at the Jewish International Film Festival in Auckland, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. See www.jiff.com.au for dates and details

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