Original Title: The Father
Direction: Florian Zeller
Script: Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton. Based on "The Father" by Florian Zeller
Music: Ludovico Einaudi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins: Anthony. Olivia Colman: Anne. Rufus Sewell: Paul. Imogen Poots: Laura. Olivia Williams: Nurse. Mark Gatiss: Nurse
Country, Year: UK / France, 2020
Duration: 97 minutes
"The Father" a British film, adaptation of the play Le Père, directed by Florian Zeller with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in the leading roles. 2020. It got a great reception after its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
He earned six Oscar nominations, of which he won two: "Best Actor" for Anthony Hopkins and Best Adapted Screenplay for Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller.
The main character is Anthony, a man of almost 83 years old. He lives alone in his London apartment and rejects all the nursing assistants that his eldest daughter, Anne, tries to assign him. But Anne understands it as an inescapable need because she will no longer be able to visit him every day. She has decided to go live in Paris with Paul, a man she has just met.
So who is this stranger Anthony meets in his living room who claims to have been married to Anne for over ten years? And why does he say with conviction that they are in his own home and not Anthony's?
Something is hatching around him, as if the world has ceased to be governed by logic. Unless your daughter and her new partner are trying to pass you off as crazy, in order to take your apartment and put you in a nursing home.
"The Father" recounts the painful journey of a man whose reality little by little is shattered before our eyes.
At the beginning of the film, the eldest daughter, Anne, arrives at the nursing home running, as if it were an emergency. When he opens the door, Director Zeller introduces a false raccord of time and space: Anne, instead of appearing in the nursing home room, enters with shopping bags into the apartment of Anthony, her father, in a much earlier time. There is also a flashback, as what happens next is probably a memory of Anthony.
But there is more: During the opening scene, as Anne walks down the street, the iconic chords of “What Power Art Thow” are heard from Purcell's opera King Arthur. The melody was modified and modernized by Enrico Inaudi, to give more drama and tension to the plot. The interesting thing is that the film opens with said opera as incidental music, and suddenly, Anthony presses "stop" and takes off the headphones. There we realize that he was listening to a recording: “In general, the diegetic sound is what the characters perceive; and the non-diegetic sound is the one that is not perceived. However, according to Chion, there is the subjective diegetic sound that corresponds to what the characters imagine and hear inside, it is the inner voice. We must understand that, although it is not perceived by the rest of the characters, it is perceived by the character who thinks, imagines or listens ”(1). In summary: when the film begins, the extra-diegetic incidental music, that is, it does not belong to the plot but gives it a dramatic tone, it suddenly transforms into diegetic music (since it is part of the plot), in sound (because the source, the music player, is within the film frame) and at the same time it is subjective sound because only Anthony hears it.
Using the false raccord and subjective diegetic sound, Zeller establishes a type of framed story that opens with Anne arriving at the hospice and closes with the same character leaving it. And everything in between happens inside Anthony's mind. Most of the film is subjective cameras, which allow us to perceive the world as Anthony does, confusing faces, places, names; dreaming and remembering events that we do not know to what extent they really took place. His spatial-temporal disorientation becomes ours, as well as his amnesia.
We could say that the general structure of the story is circular, since it begins and ends at the same point, or almost, since the last scene shows the hospice window through which the leaves of the trees sway in the wind. The sun, the wind and the vegetation are the only ones that remain in the frame. All material and social ties have disappeared. This is the real epilogue. Not only the future of Anthony, but the future of humanity is in the return to nature, a return to his childhood as a species.
The frequent use of flash-backs, flash forwards and false temporal and spatial connections make “The Father” a difficult film to read. Florian Zeller uses these resources to show the horror experienced by a patient with senile dementia, a disease similar to Alzheimer's, although more aggressive and with a faster progression.
Trying to understand this film logically is the same as reconstructing a puzzle or trying to find plausible logic in the chaos of a dream. Trying to reconstruct the story in a logical sequence, we get a result similar to this: Anthony lived in London in a huge apartment that he bought with his engineering job. One bad day, his youngest daughter Lucy has an accident and dies. It is unclear if Anthony was in the accident and managed to survive, or simply visiting Lucy in the hospital moments before she expired. Why does Anthony remember being in the hospital gown, as he watches his daughter Lucy in intensive care? It seems that he would have also been hospitalized after that fatal accident.
In any case, it is clear that, from the accident and the impact of the loss of the youngest daughter, his favorite, Anthony is affected by post-traumatic stress, one of whose symptoms is anterograde amnesia. This means that he remembers events from the distant past, prior to the accident, such as the year, day and time of his birth, but he does not remember trivial matters of everyday life that occurred, for example, the previous week. Over the years, another even more serious disease that affects a growing number of elderly people in the world, senile dementia (see below the item: “post-traumatic stress and senile dementia”).
For her part, Anne was married to James for 10 years in an apartment much smaller than her father's, as he was diagnosed with senile dementia, Anne decided to take him to live with her, which triggered the couple's divorce. Life continues in the same way, until Anne meets Paul, a Frenchman who wants to marry her and take her to live in Paris. The relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law is extremely strained and, finally, the daughter decides to take her father to a hospice and leave London to move to Paris with her new partner.
Loss of material objects and time-space coordinates
Anthony's apartment is huge, Anne's apartment, on the other hand, is much smaller, Anthony's room in the nursing home is tiny. There is a loss of space, loss of material goods, loss of memory, there is a progressive degradation in all aspects of human life.
There is also a kind of throwback to childhood. At the nursing home, Anthony says he wants to see his mother instead of "I want to see my daughter." Somehow he becomes a child again, because that is the cycle of life, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. During old age you go back to childhood in some way, just before death.
The human species will fulfill the same cycle as the individual person. Zeller seems to tell us that we are natural beings despite the entire civilizing process, which is ultimately nothing more than a mask of what is left behind repressed. civilization has tended to suppress, unsuccessfully, everything that mankind inherited from animal species.
In this sense, it reminds me of Ingmar Bergman when he revealed in films as "Person", that what we show the world is precisely that, the person, the mask of the Greek theater that hid their true faces in the actors. Underneath the "person" an unknown inner world boils, which barely manages to surface and, when it does, acts with all the violence of the repressed. Hence, the last shot shows the leaves of the trees, the sun, the wind and the vegetation. Everything material and social disappear.
The loss and search for the clock, recurrent in the film, has to do with the loss of the notion of time as a reassuring parameter, the human need to think about a temporal-spatial coordinate is constantly put in motion by the film. Near death the notion of conventional time and space is slowly but relentlessly being lost.
Anne sells all of her father's items, including her sister Lucy's painting, of which Anthony was so proud. There is a bit of envy and jealousy in that sister-parent relationship. But Anthony was also cruel to his daughter, making fun of her shortcomings and comparing her to the youngest, his favorite. Over time, more and more he becomes Anne's son rather than father. She becomes more and more vulnerable while the mother is barely mentioned. It is only said that the parents were divorced and Anthony mentions that Anne is more like the mother than himself.
As the elderly person suffers from dementia, they probably no longer have the legal capacity to manage their assets. The daughter and sons-in-law become nurses and parents to their parents and in-laws. And this is stated in a universal way. Despite the fact that Paul has no affection for his father-in-law, is cruel and hits Anthony (in the same way that some parents punish their children), Anne comforts him as if he were their mother. Her role as daughter becomes the role of mother and nurse.
Interpretation of the story from the names and their symbols
There is a framed photo in the room of the house where Anne and Lucy appear, with their father. Anne is the same actress who plays nurse Katherine and Lucy is the same actress who plays nurse Laura.
In "Scenes from married life", Ingmar Bergman shows that in bourgeois marriage, routine coexistence kills love, and over time, the woman ends up fulfilling the role of a nurse or servant of her husband. In the best Bergman style, Florian Zeller suggests that children eventually become their parents' nurses. It is a universal statement, as well as the symbolism of the names used for its characters.
The same actors play different roles. And not by chance. Lucy (youngest daughter who died in an accident) = Laura (nurse)
Anthony (the father, matches the actor's name, Anthony Hopkins, who plays the character)
Anne (eldest daughter of young, as it appears in the photo) = Angela (nurse) = Katherine (nurse)
According to the name dictionaries, Lucy comes from the Latin word lux = light. "Traditionally identified with the spirit (...) light is the manifestation of morality, intellectuality and the seven virtues" but it is also identified with Lucifer (bearer of light), the most beautiful angel of all, who tried rebel against the authority of God, and for this he was thrown out of heaven. For the Judeo-Christian tradition it represents the fallen angel (Isaiah 14:12). For the Greco-Roman tradition, Lucifer was associated with the morning star, the planet Venus, symbol of beauty and intelligence. Lucy, Anthony's youngest daughter, was a painter, dedicated to the fine arts, and her father was proud of her. But he was also a fallen angel, especially in relation to his untimely death.
Laura, the nurse played by the same actress who plays Lucy as a young woman, bears a name that comes from the Latin laurus (laurel) and laurea (crown). The laurel is the beautiful and fragrant plant sacred to the god Apollo, the Greco-Roman god of the Sun, of the arts, of Music, of healing, Justice and Order. With its leaves the Greeks made the crown of victory and, at the time of the Christian persecutions, the crown of martyrdom. For Anthony, his daughter Lucy had that double dimension, that of victory (while alive) and that of martyrdom (after death). Lucy and Laura are represented by the same actress, to denote, as we have already said, that children become nurses and protective angels of their parents, when they reach a certain age.
Anne: In Hebrew Hannah was the mother of Samuel and the wife of Tobias: In the apocryphal Gospels she appears as the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the symbol of the faithful wife and mother par excellence. Her name in the film is due to her motherly and protective attitude towards her father.
Angela, the nurse, is played by the same actress who plays Anne as a young woman, as she appears in the triple portrait. The name comes from the Greek "angels", which means messenger or announcer, in the sense of a winged intermediary between divinity and man, of whom he can be an advisor or guardian. They are sent to approach man in the form of dreams, visions and meditative states. Nurse Angela fulfills the same protective role towards Anthony as her daughter Anne.
Katherine is the nurse at the end of the film, whose face also matches Anne's when she was young. The name comes from the Greek form "Aicaterina", which in turn originates from "Hékate", the infernal face of the Moon. Just as Lucy and Lucifer represent the two faces, the bright and the dark of the youngest daughter. The same goes for Anne and Katherine (or Catalina, in Spanish).
Between Anne and Lucy there was jealousy of sisters. This jealousy shows up in Anne's facial expressions every time her father remembers the dead sister. Not everything in Anne is love and protection, at times her dark side, her "Hékate" also makes an appearance. She does not tell the whole truth to the father, there are often lies and concealments, a revenge for jealousy. For example: although it is Paul who physically mistreats Anthony, while Anne is the one who consoles him, we do not know to what extent she is aware of these mistreatments and allows them to occur as a form of revenge for the humiliations received in her youth.
In the film it is very clear that Anthony is a man in decline in his old age, but that in his middle age he displayed a strong and domineering character. Anne, as an example of her resentment, sells her sister's painting, despite the feeling of attachment that her father felt for that painting and being the only thing he had left of his dead daughter.
Anthony: The name probably derives from the Etruscan Antenius or Antilius and these, in turn, originated the Latin name Antonius. Among the famous people who bore this name, it is worth mentioning Marco Antonio, the loving triumvir of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who took his own life when he was defeated by Octavian Augustus during the last Roman civil war. And Saint Anthony the Abbot or Saint Anthony the Great, born in Upper Egypt in the XNUMXrd century, who sold the goods he had received as an inheritance from his parents to distribute them among the poor, and spent thirty years of his life as a hermit in the desert before to found a monastery. In addition, the name of the character coincides with the name of the actor who plays it, making the message even more universal and thus confusing fiction and reality.
Anthony stops being General Marco Antonio at the peak of his career, his youth and his power, to end up stripped of his material goods, like the hermit Saint Anthony the Abbot.
Nurse Angela, Anthony and Anne are also linked by the similarity of the first two letters, forming a trio. The divorce of Anne and James is a repeat of the divorce of Anthony and his wife. There is an identification between Anthony and Anne despite the fact that the father assures that Anne is more like the mother, a bit derogatory.
Political reading of "The Father"
Anthony represents Great Britain from the English Empire. The British Empire still existed when he was born, but historical cycles work the same way as life cycles: birth, peak, and decline. Anthony was tied to the glories of the past, but an Indian doctor, Dr. Sarai, tells Anne that the father's condition will deteriorate very quickly. It is no coincidence that the doctor, the one who cures, has precisely origins in a country that was once a colony of the British Empire.
Things change and evolve over time. Today we are at the top and tomorrow we may enter a natural process of decline. Anne marries a Frenchman, Paul, which is also a form of rebellion against a decadent paternalism that forces women to stay home in the care of their parents. The English and French are known to be historical enemies. In a way, that marriage and moving to Paris are part of Anne's revenge, a way of paying her father with the same coin.
For his part, Paul stands out for his complete lack of compassion and empathy with his father-in-law. There is no love in that bond. He sees it only as a problem, he does not see his valuable side, his human side, his light side, which also exists. The film shows us the chiaroscuro of both.
Going further. Anthony represents Western civilization in decline. And the Judeo-Christian names do not escape this logic. All the civilization built by the Greeks and Romans, represented in Marco Antonio is in decline, and instead we are going towards a society of renunciation of materiality, symbolized by another Antonio, the hermit.
The Function of Music in "The Father"
As we said earlier, as Anne walks down the street in the opening shots, she listens to “What Power Art Thou” from Purcell's “King Arthur”. The lyrics say: "What power are you, that from below you have made me rise unintentionally and slowly, from beds made of eternal snow?"
The lyrics seem to be said by Anthony to Anne, referring to her as a goddess who makes him rise from a long slumber.
Later we see Anthony in the kitchen. He turns on a radio that plays “Casta Diva” from “Norma” by Bellini, on a recording by Maria Callas. “... Temper, oh goddess, the hardening of your fiery spirit. Moderate your bold zeal, spread peace throughout the land. You make heaven reign ... "
The soprano voice pleads with a power beyond her control, an invisible power that she hopes to know and hopes to intervene in favor of peace on earth.
Later on we see Anthony again listening to Nadir's aria: “Je crois comprere encore” (“I think I hear it again”) from the opera “The Pearl Fishers” by Georges Bizet. Nadir's aria speaks of a "divine rapture" and a "sweet memory" that is almost unattainable, untouchable for the lonely man. Every time there is something interrupting the music. Just as the story breaks each time, the same happens with the music.
The arias are, in a way, Anthony's subconscious speaking to us. It is no accident that he is the only one who hears them, and each one is a plea to higher powers for some relief, gift or salvation. They all share a pleading and melancholic quality.
Each piece of music seems to remind him that he lacks power and it is actually higher powers that rule his life. But the music is interrupted every time, partly because he doesn't want to listen to it, doesn't want to know that he's not omnipotent. That is why the arias that he listens express his helplessness for the dementia to be progressively taking over his mind.
"The Pearl Fishers" is about a romantic threesome in which, in the end, the older patriarch, overpowering his own jealousy, sacrifices his life to save the love of the young couple. The theme of the opera is in the film for some reason. The modern world is saved to the detriment of an ancient and outdated world.
At the end of the film, we can listen to Nadir's aria from "The Pearl Fishers" without interruption, as we watch Anne leave the asylum. There is no interruption in the music because there is no interruption in the narration either. Everything clears up and closes for the viewer. Post-traumatic stress and senile dementia (section)
According to the World Health Organization, “dementia is a general term that encompasses several diseases that affect memory, other cognitive abilities and behavior, conditions that significantly interfere with a person's ability to maintain their daily activities. Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not a normal part of aging. "
“Around the world, about 50 million people suffer from dementia, and there are almost 10 million new cases each year. Dementia is one of the main causes of disability and dependency among older people around the world ”. “There is often a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, resulting in stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care. The impact of dementia on health personnel, the family and society in general can be physical, psychological, social and economic ”.
For its part, the University of London published a new study in September 2020, where it ensures that "experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome (SEPT) increases up to double the probability of eventually developing dementia." The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, is the first global evidence meta-analysis on SEPT and dementia risk.
By combining data from eight studies, the researchers found that people with PTSD face a 61% increased risk of dementia. Post-traumatic stress syndrome also increases the likelihood of developing other known risk factors for dementia, such as depression, social isolation, or heavy alcohol use.
It should be remembered that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or seeing a traumatic event. This event can be life-threatening, such as war, natural disaster, car accident, or sexual assault. The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.
-1 Diegetic Sound - Moya Decorations
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Diegetic Sound. Moya Decorations
Lady Beverly Cohn: The Road to Hollywood. Traveling Boy. March, 2021 Sir Anthony Hopkins' Astonishing Performance in “The Father” (travelingboy.com)
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