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MOVIE FROM THE SOUTH: The waiting room of death

Distant Constellation
Regissør: Shevaun Mizrahi

Shevaun Mizrahi's Distant Constellation follows the slow pace of the old home and teaches us what it means to grow old.


Where do we really end up when we come to an old home to live there? It may seem like a strange question, because the answer seems obvious – we are there because we can no longer take care of ourselves and are old – but is it really a satisfactory answer? Could we rather say that this is the place old people are transported when society no longer wants to know about them?

Distant Constellation, which allows us to meet a bunch of elderly people in an old-age home in Istanbul, gives us an opportunity to think through these questions.

My nightmare. For my own part, old homes are among the most dangerous places to end up, a sort of gathering place before death. I have been to many of them here in the country to know that there is nothing to look forward to. I would like to say something else, but there is something fundamentally sad about these places, I have always thought that, not least because they are an organization of communities around cake eating and television watching. I admire those who work there and who take over the work from the family, but there is little reconciliation in old homes. It is a nightmare for me to end up in such a place.

The guys we get to know Distant Constellation, doesn't seem to suffer any obvious distress, though. They live in the rest of their lives, in memories and props, which allows them to regain lost moments.

Visually impaired photographer. One of the men we get to know has had a long professional life as a photographer, and one of his favorite things is to pick the camera out from the closet and look at lenses and other equipment. He tells the director – he tells us – about how many nice pictures he has taken. As with the irony of fate, however, the sight, of all senses, has failed. Another man sits in front of the TV watching old clips of himself from his heyday as a singer on stage while he sings. A third gentleman is still alive in his past sexual fantasies.

They are put away, they no longer participate, they live more in the past than in the present.

Follow the old rhythm. In another moving scene in the film, we see two other gentlemen riding a lift. They don't go anywhere, they don't leave, they just think it's fun to ride up and down, up and down. One of the nicest things about this movie is that it doesn't go to any particular place, but follows the old ones around in their everyday lives, without us really having a specific goal. The film simply takes the time to see these people – something very few others in society actually do.

Listen to them, says Shevaun Mizrahi, hear what they have to say. 

As the film progresses, I realize that this is exactly what it is about: adjusting to the old times, to their rhythm of life, to their everyday life and to the passage back and forth between coffee cups, cake plates and armchairs.

Extended twin. Then comes the most touching moment in the movie: An old lady tells the director (or is it the photographer?) How wonderful it is to have children and how much joy she has had from a girl she took care of during the war. Then she falls asleep from her story. But the camera does not turn off, it takes time for her, even when she is sleeping.

The slowness that we are led into with the old ones, eventually also transfers to the film's gaze, as such. The lingering gaze looks around, sees corridors, looks asleep on a couch, sees the cranes on the construction site outside reflected in the polished tiles on the floor, sees a discovered table (no guests have come yet).

Construction site and old homes. On the outside of the windows we see a building site and a number of wacky workers who are about to erect a huge building. Unlike the old people, the world outside the walls of the old home is about being productive, making things, making money, doing something useful. Everything is characterized by this cycle of money, work, sleep, food, again and again. Is it, it strikes me, any more meaning in the frenetic construction work outside the old home than in these corridors of slow twilight and simple pleasures?

The film simply takes the time to see these people – something very few others in society actually do. 

Maybe not. The movie at least gives me a slightly different place to see the old home. Not because I want to end up in one, but because I get the idea of ​​these places decorated with real fates.

Listen to the stories. But most of all, this movie is about devoting time to all the people who don't necessarily do anything useful (anymore) – and through their attention to all the details of their everyday lives, their ability to listen to their stories and follow them around in their Fascinations, sorrows and joys, the film also becomes much more than a movie about people in an old age home.

Distant Constellation becomes a movie about patience and an urge to not rush on when someone has something they want to tell you. Listen to them, says Shevaun Mizrahi, hear what they have to say. And if they get quiet and can't find the words right away, you have to wait.

The movie is shown on Movies from the South 9.-19.november

Kjetil Røed
Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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