Saturday, October 1, 2016

Silent Heart

2nd Danish Film Festival
Shang Cineplex

What seems like a weekend family bonding in an ancestral house turns out to be 'farewell party' for its matriarch, Esther. The thing is Esther has a debilitating sickness which will soon render her totally immobile so she decides to end her life before she becomes a burden to her family. 

She planned one last weekend together with her immediate family which consists of her older daughter, Heidi, her husband Michael and her son Jonathan. Sanne, her troubled daughter and her boyfriend Dennis. They are joined by Lisbeth, Esther's best friend and Poul, Esther's husband who is also a medical practitioner. 

Esther's decision was made several months ago much to the chagrin of her daughters yet they also respect and accept their mother's dying wish. Esther planned some activities for the weekend like the tradition of singing and dancing around the Christmas tree (even though it is evidently not December) as well as partaking of their favorite dishes during their meals. 

Euthanasia is a very serious topic and to tackle it in a heartwarming film is a tricky affair. Director Bille August handles it well with the use of muted tones set in a quaint wintry Danish town. But there is also enough warmth as manifested by the camaraderie of a family that seem close even though they don't see each other as often they want to perhaps due to distance and obligations. Reminiscing over old photographs and sharing light intimate moments to make the weekend memorable for all of them.

There are also misunderstandings, conflicts and frustrations which surface as they each try to come to terms with dealing with the finality of Esther's desire to end her life. An understandable sense of sadness and contained grief also reigns throughout the film.

I couldn't stop crying (I am such a softie) and it seems I wasn't alone as I could also hear some sobs emanating from some viewers in the quiet, cold and dark cinema theater. But I was also grateful there weren't any over the top hysterical scenes that could turn this poignant film into a melodramatic weepy tearjerker. In my opinion, this film isn't about death because as Esther said we are all headed that way anyhow. It is about living and living our life to the fullest.

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