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I saw this film as part of the Ghent filmfestival 2011, in the same
week that I saw "50/50" (Levine; 2011) with a similar theme. Both
portrayed how relatives and friends try to cope with the announcement
of an immanent death after a tumor diagnosis. It is particularly
interesting to see how some evade the issue, and others rise to the
challenge. For most people it is already difficult enough to properly
behave after someone has died, even knowing we have established rituals
for that. Being diagnosed with cancer is different in many ways, and we
have no recipes ready.
Both films succeed very well in showing how friends and relatives initially react, and how good or bad they find their way later on in dealing with the issues at hand. In many other respects, the two films are very different. The chances for survival, for example, are 50/50 within the film of that name, contrary to the brain tumor diagnosed in Stopped On Track, being not curable in any way. The latter is the prime reason that humor is as good as absent in that film, while it is a prominent feature of 50/50, regardless of the fact that the spine tumor in 50/50 may prove just as fatal.
The brain tumor is impossible to operate, and chemo nor radiation therapy seem to offer any relief. Telling everyone around what is going on, cannot be postponed very long. It will become apparent in a few months time anyway. But is it wise to tell the whole ugly truth to the daughter (12 years old) and son (8 years)?? And how will the grandparents deal with the bad news??
From very close nearby we observe all subsequent phases leading to the inevitable death: sudden headaches, memory loss, problems with daily tasks, and more such side effects of deterioration. The constant daily burden works out very differently on the family members. The wife admits aloud that there are moments that she cannot take it anymore, and that she is happy when she can escape to her work. The daughter creates distance and is often away. We see similar differences in approach with others. That the good moments decrease and the bad moments increase obviously causes all sorts of cracks in mutual relationships.
We see the months pass by. Visiting friends and relatives try to communicate with him, mostly with unexpected results when ancient memories hijack the dialog. We see him become weaker and weaker, mostly because of steadily rising doses of morphine he gets. A benefit of the sedation is that the home situation becomes gradually more quiet. In the meantime all get used to the idea that the end is near.
The finale of this film is predictable, given what the doctor said at the beginning (this cannot be construed as a spoiler). The important message lies in what happened in between, how everyone was able (or not) to deal with the situation. It lets us ponder how we would behave ourselves when this happened in our own lives. Maybe the film prepares us for it, and makes us a better patient, friend or family member.
All in all, I'm very satisfied with the film, the main actors and the ingredients for the story. You cannot help getting involved in how these people react, and their problems in doing their best, but not always succeed in that. I gave it 5 stars (out of 5) for the public prize competition when leaving the theater.
The movie 'Halt auf freier Strecke' draws a realistic story of a family
facing a great loss. The film begins from the beginning of an end: at
the clinic where a doctor gently delivers a death sentence for a father
of a family.
In the story, the parents' roles are solid and their mutual relationship is pictured in a beautiful but not overly romantic way. Outsiders to the nuclear family remain uncomfortable with the thought of death throughout. Amazingly that happens even to the close ones. Only those that are facing death at the daily basis seem to be okay with the idea.
The daughter's role remains strangely distant throughout the movie. It is likely intentional from the director, as for a teenager the thought of someone's death might feel distant. However, if it were one's own father, I would imagine that the response would not necessarily be like the one pictured in the film, especially that the family seems like perfectly average.
The film is probably a great chance for going through one's feelings for anyone who has experienced a cancer death of a close person. For others, it surely is a chance to stop for 110 minutes to think what it would mean for oneself if something tragic suddenly happened in one's own life.
As a non-German viewer, it is refreshing for a change to see good movie-making from Germany motivated by something else than the currently hot "multi-kulti" topic. and something that made me feel great at the end regardless of the theme was the soundtrack - German rock (when played at the right place at the right time) is just awesome!
It's a German film, and it's good - hallelujah! That was pretty much my
initial reaction after watching this cancer drama, before the pain set
in. For when you've been in the situation the film describes, you'll go
through the exact motions you may have felt when taking care of a loved
one who dies. Other than just about any other film I've seen on the
subject, no sappy music sets in, no brilliant actors use their
characters to showcase their abilities. It's just the story of an
ordinary worker with a wife and two kids who gets diagnosed with a
fatal brain tumor and chronicles his last months with a camcorder.
Director-writer Andreas Dresen is a seasoned TV director and documentary film maker, which defines his visual style. But unlike most German directors, he's making the best out of his possibilities by sticking to a very naturalist mise-en-scène, focusing on creating 'special moments' which drive the story. That allows him to take the spectator's attention away from the actors. It's a style that already worked very well in 'Cloud 9', for which he received the Cannes a special Cannes 'Un Certain Regard' public prize, before winning the award itself with this film. He is, however, essentially a documentary film maker, so his best film so far is most definitely 'Herr Wichmann von der CDU' (2003), which is about a provincial election campaign.
Still, 'Stopped on Track' will probably stay with you longer than most films of the past year, as it's dealing with a reality that concerns everybody, but is usually considered taboo in film. While people die so often violently on screen, it's quite a shock to see someone die from a disease, even if it's just fictitious; so the importance of this film is to make us wonder which is the appropriate way to deal with death, a question to which it gives mature and even beautiful answers.
Most films about people undergoing a slow death have an inevitable
sentimentality about them. It's a feeling I resist and then fall for
like eating too much chocolate. Not so Stopped on Track, a new German
film. It's about a man, Frank, who is diagnosed with an aggressive
brain tumour. It's gruelling and true. It combines all the
wretchedness, tedium and sadness that accompanies a slow death. And I
think the audience feels these three qualities in equal measure, with a
couple of light moments thrown in. It is about a journey the most
universal of journeys and one that we often resist seeing up close and
slow. Very powerful. Great acting. I did not feel emotionally
manipulated, just very sad. And a bit bored at times which felt
I felt there was some irony at the expense of the health profession. Their capacity to do anything in the face of his dying and the terrible burden this placed on his family seemed limited in the extreme, and their words felt kind but hollow. I doubt that this was the intention of the director, Andreas Dresen, who also made Cloud Nine a film I really liked at MIFF a couple of years ago. In this film, he used a mix of professional actors and these real-life health professionals, and much of the dialogue was improvised as the filming took place.
One aspect that I liked was that Frank used a mobile phone to records short bursts about himself and to capture his family reacting to him. This mini film within a film not only gave us insights into how he was feeling but mimicked, for me, the fragments of memory that you retain of someone who has died. This is an intimate and authentic film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is the most heart-wrenching film i have seen in a long time!The film begins with a close of shot of a couple listening to a doctor tell the man that he has a advanced stage malignant tumor.Tears roll down the cheeks of the wife while the man looks completely bewildered .The doctor interrupts the conversation to take a call from colleague about expanding the operation theaters .The camera never leaves the couples faces while he talks on phone.We see much later in the scene when he answers the questions of the devastated couple.The director never looks away and we are not allowed to also.The end is inevitable and we see the family slowly come to terms with the eventuality.The absolute level of intimacy the viewer is accorded is makes us more than a spectator in this situation.The camera looks very closely to the hero as his health declines rapidly.The children are confused,unable to fully comprehend the meaning of death.The 8 year old son asks "papa are you really going to die?" and then literally in the same breath"will i get your iPhone".Frank the protagonist pulls out his iphone to start recoding a video diary, which he starts soon after learning of his terminal illness.His wide character is another great performance,she is a tram driver and the way she copes with her husbands very difficult illness is both admirable and heartbreaking. The film raises many questions about death and meaning of life and the absence of the discussion of an afterlife or God for that matter is of importance here.The family copes and fights with the illness as best as they can without resorting to praying for miracles.there is simply no waste. This is a amazing film with stupendous performances.The direction is intimate and uncompromising.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There have been many films about people dying of cancer (hardy a spoiler, this is made clear in the first five minutes of the film) but almost all of them have been Hollywood-style syrupy tearjerkers ("Love Story", anyone?). At last, here is a film that takes you through the genuine emotional roller-coaster of being, or being close to, someone who learns he is condemned, from the moment of discovery to the inevitable denouement. Avoiding the trap of over-sentimentalizing the subject yet steering away from a documentary "reality show" type approach, adding just enough humor (most of it on the part of the victim himself) to keep the viewer from despair yet never wavering from realism, this is a sober yet gut-wrenching film that will stay on your mind long after you leave the movie theater.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Halt auf freier Strecke" or "Stopped on Track" is a German 105-minute
movie from 5 years ago. And it was the big moment in the spotlight for
Andreas Dresen, Milan Peschel and Otto Mellies. All three won German
Film Awards for their work here. Writer and director Dresen is one of
the most successful filmmakers from the former GDR. Peschel has worked
in film for a long time, frequently as supporting actor to
Schweighöfer. Mellies was roughly 80, in the final years of his life
and career probably, when he made this one and it was (according to
IMDb) the first award he ever won. And the film itself also won the
Lola for Best German Film of the Year. Everybody involved with this one
was probably a bit disappointed that the movie was not picked to
represent Germany at the Oscars back then.
But now let us talk a bit about the story. The film begins with a couple in their 40s talking to a doctor when they are informed that the husband has terminal brain cancer. They only went there because he had some apparently not so serious headaches. This shows how things can entirely change from one day to the next. Live your life to the fullest, you have no idea how much time you have left. The rest of the movie is about the medical treatment he receives, the way he deals with his family and his family deals with him and his declining health until he dies in the final scene. It is certainly a fairly depressing watch from start to finish. Comedy is basically non-existent and you also have to be very attentive, so you won't miss any of the very few somewhat positive and uplifting moments.
As a whole, it was a realistic depiction of dying I believe and Dresen also did a good job with everybody else except the main character. The same story in reality where it certainly happens a lot too in a similar manner may not have looked much different. Still, sometimes I felt that the film still could have delivered a bit more on the emotional side, occasionally i found it a bit sterile for the subject, but I guess Dresen did not want to become it too much of a tearjerker and that's perfectly fine too. And there were also a handful scenes I did not like and that I could have done without, for example the early scene when the protagonist talks to a little machine about how he is supposed to tell his children about his illness. That was when Dresen overshot the mark, but I can forgive him because the positive moments easily outweighed the good. I also believe that despite the bleakness this film is an example which will have a much bigger (emotional) impact when watched on the big instead of the small screen. It may be very difficult to catch this film at a theater because of the time passed, but if you get the chance, then don't miss out on it. I highly recommend "Halt auf freier Strecke", even if the second half was inferior to the first and the song during the closing credits was also a weak choice.
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