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An old sea captain has lived on his own as long as he has been able to. Between his pension and the portraits he paints for a little spending money, he has done all right. However, the day finally comes when he must enter an old age home. Nothing daunted, his high spirits and zest for living infect the whole home with enthusiasm as they prepare a New Year's Eve party for visiting relatives. Even the captain's withdrawn and sour old roommate at the home eventually joins in.
Set in an old peoples' home, this film uses documentary techniques wonderfully to tell a convincingly true fiction.
An old man, Captain Vujovic, the retired captain of a ship travelling the Danube, finally moves into the home. He meets other residents, makes friends with his room-mate, Mr. Predic, organises a New Year's party, persuades Mr. Predic to become less reclusive, has a heart attack and dies. it isn't the story, but the way it's told that matters. Most of the actors are in their first film here- are they pretending to be themselves or are they acting others? Is it set in a real home for retired performers?- there's an extraordinary range of talents among the people there.
What we aren't told is also important- we never know why Mr. Predic is estranged from his family or if the young man who helps the captain move is his son or a friend. These things don't matter in the film. The only problem, in fact, is the relationship between the two men- we see the "odd couple" beginning and the established relationship but we don't see the change, which seems too easy as a result. Again, the captain has a choice of whether he will have a single room or share, but Mr. Predic does not, and we are never told why a recluse has chosen to live in a double room even if he is alone at first.
The last section, a long bibulously enjoyable New Year's Party, which is- literally- the death of the captain, is wonderfully filmed and recognises that not everything is well: there are people who wait in vain in the hallway for their relatives, as well as the celebrants. Mr. Predic goes for a walk and watches his son's family celebrate and comes home again without disturbing them, but he joins he party at the home and accepts a bottle of beer from the captain. However, in the end, even he is changed: walking back from hospital after the captain's death with the captain's parrot- the first bone of contention between the two; now, presumably his responsibility- he hears the captain's favourite song, which gives the film its title, played on a pleasure-boat on the river and smiles.
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