Time To Die

Time To Die


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It would be easy to celebrate Dorota Kedzierzawska’s beautifully photographed black-and-white paean to the trials, tribulations and terror of old age as a triumph for 92-year-old Danuta Szaflarska, an actress with 60 years experience in Polish cinema. It would be easy, it would be respectful, it would be the right thing to do – the lady is indeed remarkable – but it would also be half the story, the other being an ambience of decayed memories, the reality of market forces, the breakdown of family unity and the neurotic nature of a house-bound sheep dog.

Geriatrics have a bad press because of care home malfunctions, senile dementia and loss of everything that makes life worth living. The phrase “feisty old bat” is used less these days than “waste of space,” or “I feel sorry for Sandra and Bill, being saddled with her mum.” If nothing else, Time To Die reinforces the truism that you are as old as you feel, without gilding the lily, as in On Golden Pond.

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Aniela (Szaflarska) still lives in the rambling house of her childhood, with its overgrown garden and swing, hung from the tallest tree, which the local children use now, after climbing trough holes in the fence. Most of the furniture has been taken, leaving her with a collie, called Philadelphia, whose particular talent is stealing food off Aniela’s plate (“You must have been a cheap dancer in a previous life”). Her son (Krzysztof Globisz) wants to sell the house to a fat businessman with a trophy wife. Her daughter-in-law calls her a witch and her lazy, obese granddaughter says, “This house should be burnt, not fixed up.”

Her sprit is indomitable and her humour intact. She is a lovely woman, rather than a withered crone who was once a beauty. She talks to Philadelphia. She watches the neighbours through binoculars. She plans her future, remembering moments from the past when love was young, and refuses to be bullied. The sadness is her family’s betrayal. The joy is helping others and having a friend (four legged) with whom to share it.

The film is funny, heart rending, brutally honest and extremely well made. Szarflarska’s charm is irrepressible. Even when Aniela rails against modernity and the helplessness of age, there is neither bitterness, nor regret. When she smiles, you can see the naughty little girl inside. Her performance deserves to be left to the nation, with other priceless works of art.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2008
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Time To Die packshot
An old woman talks to her dog in an attempt to retain a modicum of independance in a material world that does not appreciate a child's desire to play on a swing.

Director: Dorota Kedzierzawska

Writer: Dorota Kedzierzawska

Starring: Danuta Szaflarska, Krzysztof Globisz, Patrycja Szewczyk, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Piotr Ziarkiewicz, Kamil Bitau, Kai Schoenhals, Weronika Karwowska

Year: 2007

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: Poland


CFF 2008
Leeds 2008

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