Dying (2024)


Dying Review

The filmmaker ponders the idea of death in a family using various characters in his first movie since 2012, a self-conscious comedy-drama revolving around death.

Matthias Glasner’s “Dying” lasts for more than three hours and has five different chapters. It is about an estranged family of four members two old people who are dying, their son- the successful composer and their daughter a drunk. The film takes into account all these experiences and each leading performance is as good as the one before it. But Glasner failed to make them intrinsic enough through rigid formalism that could have kept them together.

The setting is introduced in German country side when Gerd Lunies (Hans-Uwe Bauer) and Lissy (Corinna Harfouch) are discovered helpless by their neighbour. Because of her numerous illnesses Lissy is only semi-mobile and often soils herself at the end of her day while her husband Gerd has dementia which leads him to go naked into other peoples’ homes. They cannot help themselves, besides their adult kids are too busy with their urban existences to be concerned.

Though seemingly misery porn (other works dealing with defenseless elderly couples like Michael Haneke’s “Amour” or Gaspar Noé’s “Vortex” come to mind), Glasner presents these injustices in a humorous way. He depicts them as not only inevitable but also recognizable; for example, there are situations where Lissy is extremely embarrassed and resentful of altruistic helping hands.

As she negotiates trying to get Gerd moved into an assisted living facility, “Dying” comes close to probing this fear of death (and dying alone) lurking on its edges. Yet once it shifts its focus onto Tom (Lars Eidinger), their middle-aged son, everything starts falling apart beneath it. This time Tom, his ex-girlfriend’s baby being taken care by another man, is in the final stages of a process of perfecting an orchestral piece “Sterben” (“Dying”) composed by his old buddy and reluctant partner Bernard (Robert Gwisdek), but his young musicians do not seem to get it.

The talking about death between musicians leads to new ways of expressing and performing; however, within this period of time film’s self-consciousness becomes too monotonous. Besides, rarely does the director together with Jakub Bejnarowicz find artistic transformation in their visual design. As one movie reviewer states, “The whole thing is a huge banality,” [film]. This particular criticism appears late in the film as a bit of tongue-in-cheek lamp shading, as though the movie were protecting itself, but this instinct towards self-preservation is part of its problem. Despite quality performances, this makes “Dying” very safe and hermetically sealed that it fails to make much emotional impact.

Gerd (Bauer) stumbles around corridors confusedly as if he is tragically lonely reaching out for recognition or understanding with his body. Equally tragic as him losing comprehension is when his eyes momentarily shine upon Tom making a fleeting visit right before Eidinger embodies an oppressed silence as though he could not provide any answers. His interaction with Harfouch is also fascinating since they look alike from behind (Tom and Lissy almost resemble twins). It is also funny because mortality looms over them leading to revelations and bluntness.

However, Glasner’s awkward approach visually is off balance with the writing. The dialogue is often punchy (made particularly so by Harfouch) but there are few instances where “Dying” successfully achieves a sense of lived history between the characters. And here spoken words become a crutch for the movie, especially when it introduces its fourth key family member: Tom’s sister Ellen (Lilith Stangenberg), an amateur singer and wayward dental assistant in an affair with her employer, Sebastian (Ronald Zehrfeld).

At first glance this booze-soaked relationship between them probably comes as close to being emotionally vibrant or aesthetically engaging as the film ever gets the camera matches their mood, motion and energy but Ellen’s nonexistent link to her relatives is something that the film can neither fully represent nor effectively dramatize. Her portrayal has been widely praised as highly committed: she is seen as a young woman who has lost herself down the rabbit-hole of addiction and isolation. However, she would be better suited to another film entirely which has different rhythms altogether. Rather than harmonizing with other chapters in this fashion however, Ellen segments feel like mere appendices.

These discrete chapters are loosely tied together by loneliness and fears about never finding resolution or reconciliation. However, making these characterizations pervasive across this narrative as if nothing ever contradicts it renders it vulnerable to banal criticisms such as those implied by Glasner himself and Dying’s title implies. And if anything introspective or revelatory can be done then maybe it will show that various threads are linked together through phone calls that sound different upon re-reading them after watching another scene featuring one more person (Tomas). But apart from this slight trick of perspective there isn’t much about “Dying” that counts as truly cinematic a remarkable performance piece on paper undone by unremarkable directing or camerawork at best.

Watch Dying For Free On Gomovies.

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