Elfi Mikesch

Scen., F.: Elfi Mikesch. M.: Elfi Mikesch, Renate Merck, Anke-Rixa Hansen. Mus.: Traute Hagelstein, Gysel. Int.: signora Käthe, signora Traute, Edith London, Barbara Gold, Steven Adamczewski. Prod.: Elfi Mikesch per Oh Muvie Film, ZDF • DCP. D.: 108’. Col. e Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The film begins with beguiling beauty. The camera creeps into a room flooded with light. The windows are open, summer wind moves the curtains. The colours of the film material are somewhat distorted by the incidence of light in the cassette, as is usual in material-obsessed experimental films, and we hear seductive music. A voice lets us witness the last seconds of a dying person. Instead of being frightened, we surrender to this scene and think: “This is how one would like to die.” A current cross-media irony strikes me: If one enters the film title on Google, YouTube videos about euthanasia are offered among the first five search results. Among Elfi Mikesch’s films, this is perhaps the one that goes furthest in playfully transforming the documentary into a completely free play with reality, captured by the camera in favour of a narrative that unfolds less on the screen than in the viewer’s inner experience. Everyone understands: this is not about something external to us, but we are meant to be reached in our innermost being.
During the 108 minutes of surprises this film provides, the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are not once mentioned. Unlike now, they were simply not part of the common discourse in 1980. Nevertheless, after seeing this film one understands what these mental states feel like from within.
Mikesch said in a discussion about the film that it was not meant for older, but rather for younger viewers, who could make friends here with experiences that are still waiting for them.
The leaflet for the premiere at the Berlin Film Festival (Forum section) featured this quote: “We stand in disbelief at the image that old people show us of our own future; a voice within us whispers to us, contradictorily, that this will not happen to us: it will no longer be   us when it happens. Until it comes upon us, old age is something that only affects others. In this way we can also understand that society succeeds in preventing us from seeing old people as our equals… The meaning of our life is questioned by the future that awaits us; we do not know who we are if we do not know who we will be: let us recognise ourselves in this old man, in this old woman. This is essential if we are to accept our human situation as a whole” (Simone de Beauvoir, in her essay Old Age).

Martin Koerber

Copy From

Restored in 2020 by Deutsche Kinemathek at ARRI Media laboratory from the original 16mm negative