AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

1/14/08

Away From Her

Plot: Elderly woman with Alzheimer's is put in a nursing home at her own request and finds love, again. Her husband feels abandoned, rejected while still loving his mate of years gone by.



AWAY FROM HER

Sarah Pollack



There is something about being old that draws a wide appeal to this film about an elderly couple in flux.

Away From Her capitalizes, explores, brings to the fore an image of being old, of "loosing it" that attempts to defy the ordinary concept of an asexual dried up old age. It is a slow moving film, well, being old is the moment when slow motion becomes the norm rather than the exception, and it is emotionally demanding because it is hitting on an unusual theme of "sex and the elderly".

But there is an assumption that emotions should be muted, that intense reactions such as, to the immediacy of one's spouses diminution of mental faculty, is a quiet moment of agony rather than a raging movement to be loudly, flamboyantly defied. Your wife's dumping you for another man is to be taken with quiet protestation when one is old, or so this film suggests but I object. I don't think being old will mute my feelings and certainly my capacity to express them will be less bound by the dictates of civilized restraints than ever before.

If you are comfortable with nature being used to symbolize inner feelings of unbound torment and raging rage, if you are comfortable with many truncated smiles, with seemingly forced performances, if you are comfortable with interactions between people, spouses of all too long standing, being portrayed with soft almost non verbal glances and body motions, if you are able to project yourself, your imagined feelings onto the scene where Julie Christie the wife and Gordon Pinsent the husband battle it out, (sort of) in a plush nursing home setting where Julie Christie's character finds another man while her husband is left to the barren existence of an empty nest, then this film is for you

But I found it contrived and emotionally too controlled. There was very little if any humor, or outward expression of spontaneous happiness.

I found the stereotypical portrayal of the old not as true today as it was in the past. I don't know if in fact people are living longer now but the elderly are asserting themselves as being alive, with full command of their emotional realities albeit sexual or argumentative or whatever. Senior citizen is okay but elderly connotes decrepit and I think today's septuagenarians are anything but decrepit in body. in mind or spirit.

And octogenarians are often still "dirty old men".

For a counter image of my view of old age, I recommend the Award winning 2003 French film, The Barbarian Invasions, directed and written by Denys Arcand

I found the husband and wife in Away From Her to be people of privilege, self-centered, without a hint of remorse for a seemingly empty life nor joy of a past full live.

It is difficult to like a film when I don't like the characters, don't empathize with the conflict. That said, I dare to be almost sacrilegious in admitting that, for me, this film was not enjoyable, nor worthwhile.

But since everyone else liked it, I recommend you see it and judge for yourself.



LindaZ

WBAI Women's Collective

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