Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Farewell Party: Israel Tackles Euthanasia
euthanasia is a pretty new problem for Israel. In the past, if you wanted to
go, you could just sit in an outdoor café and wait for a hateful, anti-Semitic
Hamas terrorist to do the job for you. It is a tribute to the country’s
security services that elderly Israelis now have to take a more proactive (but
illegal) role in their final exits. Fortunately, an inventor and his assisted
living cronies have the resources to help in Sharon Maymon & Tal Granit’s The Farewell Party (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is a big-hearted guy, who still enjoys tinkering in his workshop and
babysitting his granddaughter with his beloved wife, Levana. Sadly, her memory
issues will eventually get progressively worse, but Yehezkel’s immediate
concern is his old friend Max. He is a terminal case, who is only receiving
palliative treatment that is not working to any appreciable extent. When Max
and his distraught wife appeal to Yehezkel for help, he develops a
Kevorkian-like contraption in consultation with Dr. Daniel, a pro-euthanasia
veterinarian who recently moved into the complex. The inventor and the vet will
do the set-up, and Daniel’s secret lover, the married ex-cop Raffi Segal will
scrub the evidence, but Max will push the button himself.
to their initial alarm, rumors start to spread about Max’s assisted suicide,
leading to awkward requests from strangers. Despite Levana’s principled
objections, Yehezkel is inclined to oblige. However, their positions reverse as
her condition progressively deteriorates.
the aging of the Israeli population is a zeitgeisty topic, with Farewell releasing around the same time
as Reshef Levi’s grumpy old men caper Hunting Elephants. Since Israel was not driven into the sea, it will have to
struggle with the same demographic challenges of most other western
democracies. Maymon & Granit’s film is the classier package, but Levi’s
movie is way more fun.
there is nothing approaching the twinkle in Sasson Gabai’s eye throughout Elephants in Farewell. Aside from an admittedly funny closet gag involving
Segal, it is really a dramedy in name only. Evidently, Granit and Maymon had a
hard time finding humor in fatal illness, dementia, and assisted suicide.
However, it is rather touching when it addresses themes relating to love and
As Yehezkel and Levana, Ze’ev Revah and Levana
Finkelshtein truly lower the emotional boom, while Ilan Dar adds a needed dash
of vigor as the impish Dr. Daniel. The entire cast is adept at balancing the
film’s weightier moments with its comparatively lighter interludes. However, Maymon
& Granit really get heavy-handed when directly tackling the issue of euthanasia.
In truth, there is a reason Israeli law rightly or wrongly privileges life over
death—it is all the terror and killing they have endured from forces that
embrace death over life. Recommended on its dramatic merits for patrons of
Israeli cinema, The Farewell Party opens
this Friday (5/22) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center and the Cinema 1,2,3.
Labels: Israeli Cinema