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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