Berlin (dpa) – It’s a silent, understated, subtle film, but all the more haunting. And this is mainly due to the main cast: Anthony Hopkins shines in “The Father” as a proud, sometimes stubborn old man who falls more and more in love with his dementia and cannot comprehend what is going on around him.
Olivia Colman (“The Favorite”) as a girl is in no way inferior to him in terms of intensity: her relationship with the increasingly distant father alternates between despair and hope, between love and anger. A price not easy that we can now see in German cinemas, but which is still presented with a certain ease – and with some narrative tips.
Not a chronological story
In his first feature film, French director Florian Zeller, who brought the material to the theater in 2012, does not tell the story of Anthony and Anne in a strict chronological order, not in a coherent manner. He dares to jump without announcing it. He suddenly introduces another actress (Olivia Williams) who is supposed to be Anne and whom Anthony can no more recognize as that than the audience. And with her, he gives insight into Anthony’s perception of dementia: Did the conversation with Anne really take place about his move to Paris? Did you have an argument with your husband? Does this husband still exist? Or was it just in Anthony’s head?
In his dementia drama, Zeller happily dispenses with medical jargon, white coat testing, and clinical standards. He focuses fully on his two main characters: Anthony, this intelligent and strong man who increasingly loses himself and the world around him. And Anne, this loving daughter who fights for her father, whose strength is gradually running out. It describes, in a cinematographic way, a scenario which occurs hundreds of thousands of times in the families: The difficult management of the dementia of a relative; the pain of not being recognized by that person; the loss of a person, their memories, their identity.
Between the extremes
Hopkins plays it all with his own intensity between strength and vulnerability. It is the stubborn patriarch who says mean things. It is the charmer who makes the young nurse laugh while drinking whiskey. It is the desperate old man who no longer knows what is going on around him. It rarely applies too densely, but skillfully alternates between these extremes. In April, the 83-year-old Briton received his second Oscar for Best Leading Actor – more than won after receiving first prize in 1992 for the role of serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”.
Le Père, Great Britain / France 2020, 97 min., FSK from 6, by Florian Zeller, with Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss