CultureFilmThe Father: A scary insight into a dementia patient’s...

The Father: A scary insight into a dementia patient’s mind


Do you remember those labyrinths that we used to visit at fairs as children? It used to be a deeply disturbing experience as a kid, maybe even disappointing at times. Labyrinths are so unnerving because they juggle with our memories. They make us question our sanity because the paths we could have sworn we knew suddenly become alien. You keep running around looking for an escape door but only find yourself coming back to the same place over and over again. Memories become more unreliable and the lines between truth and perception begin to blur.

So considering that ‘The Father’ is an exploration of the psyche of a man suffering from dementia, it makes sense that the architecture of The Father has been constructed like a labyrinth. The film dives into the mind of Anthony, a London man losing his memory at a fast pace, and his degrading relationship with his daughter Anne. By superimposing unclear memories that play out like believable realities, the film starts unsettling the viewer itself in order to make them feel whatever the protagonist has been feeling. As you see the truth changing again and again over the course of the narrative, you can feel Anthony’s anguish.

The film is set in a space we initially believe to be Anthony’s flat. But just like Anthony’s perception of people is unreliable, so are his memories of the space he resides in. Not only do faces and names of the people around him keep changing, but the objects keep shifting form too. This shift is deliberately more understated, as the director wants the viewer to feel the change despite being completely sure if the change is happening. This is why the walls change colors, objects keep disappearing, furniture arrangements look different in every other scene. The flat has long corridors that become the labyrinth path that Anthony keeps exploring, trying to make sense of the puzzle he is in. The spaces hence become an important element of the film, and due time is given to them by continually placing the camera’s gaze on different corners of the flat.

It’s a wonder how the film is able to evoke empathy for Anne too, despite showing the world explicitly from Anthony’s lens. It’s probably an extension of the latter’s muddled but sensitive view of the world which is deeply grateful to Anne for caring for him in his most difficult moments. In a heartbreaking moment that comes halfway through the film, Anthony thanks Anne for “everything”. In a film that otherwise anchors the focus on his self-serving attributes, this one moment is enough to show his inherent gratitude and love towards his daughter and bring one down to tears.

But more than anything, The Father is a powerful, important cinema that utilizes the power of the medium to tell the story of an increasingly ignored and unimaginably painful illness that continues to torment thousands of elderly folks around us. Debutant director Florian Zeller has pulled us into this maze of memories that dementia patients go through. ‘The father’ is a film that is much more than being just a film with bringing awareness of the negligence, that old people often go through.

Text by: Sreyoshi Sil, IBTN9

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