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European-American Topics - Cinema - Time to Die

SIFF 2008: Time to Die
Poland 2007
Review by Elena Goukassian
Posted June 8, 2008

   The title makes it sound like an action thriller starring Arnold Schwartzenegger saving people from evil villains. Not at all. Exactly the opposite, in fact. The main character of this beautiful Polish film, which played at the Seattle International Film Festival last week, is none other than a 91-year-old woman named Aniela.

   After the last of her tenants moves out of her once-beautiful house in the outskirts of
Warsaw, Aniela finds herself alone and at peace at last, only to realize the reality of her situation isn’t at all how she had expected. She spends her time spying on her neighbors from her top-floor sun porch: one, a young couple suspiciously rich for how stupid they are, and the other, a poor couple who runs a small music school. She talks to her dog about how liqueur is what keeps the two of them healthy and strong. She watches children climb through the hole in her fence and play on her swing. She fondly remembers her son playing on the same swing as a child. The most exciting part of her day is when the phone rings.

   Danuta Szaflarska plays the Aniela brilliantly. The script was actually written with her in mind, 91 years old herself at the time of filming. Director Dorota Kedzierzawska captures the monotonous life of the old woman in gorgeous frames of black-and-white, just like old photographs--very fitting for a film whose main character is mired in the past. Yet the film as a whole is not as dismal as it sounds. Despite her age, Aniela is still sensible and understands everything that goes on around her, so she jokes about life, pointing out little things that would normally go unnoticed by anyone else. Nevertheless, she realizes she will die soon and is deeply saddened by the fact that her son’s family only sees her as a burden on its modern life.

   “Time to Die” has to be one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is simple in structure yet complex in content; a tragicomic portrayal of human existence.


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