It is not very clear why the theme of brutal old age has long been a kind of taboo in universal cinema. Perhaps because the average age of the general public had persuaded filmmakers that the emotional problems or crises of youth take precedence over other issues. Or perhaps because many individuals still cannot accept the aesthetic of the old body that speaks without inhibitions about the biological limitations of our own body. Even though many of the spectators will not easily overcome such absurd prejudices, it is impossible not to admit that ‘The Death of Ian Hall‘ is an extraordinary project through the devastating emotion that captures the purity of love between two people facing the imminence of death, but also through painful visual poetry that portrays the physical degradation of a couple who has to say goodbye. Similar to the great modern cinema films discussing the implosive pain of individuals overwhelmed by age and illness, Rick Bartram’s project is, beyond the emotionally devastating impact, an eulogy to the joy of loving that offers a human alternative to a tormented psychology depicted in some productions such as ‘Amour’ (directed by Michael Haneke) or ’45 Years’ (directed by Andrew Haigh).
After finding out that he cannot stop the illness he daily faces, Ian decides to ask a person who can help him die without suffering. This choice profoundly afflicts his wife, Catherine, who, despite of loving Ian enormously, doesn’t contest her partner’s decision. However, the two will take advantage of their last days together, reliving the same intensity of the love thrill that has helped them overcome all the obstacles of this wonderful but unfortunately too short life.
No summary, however detailed, could synthesize the entire sensitivity of this short film. This is not only due to the intelligence that director Rick Bartram manages, with a minimum of editing strategies, to keep his project in the parameters of a moving realism avoiding the tragic patterns of patheticalness, but also due to the extraordinary talent of the main actors who manage to deliver to the spectators a veritable incursion into the intimacy of a love relationship that defied the whims of time. Thus, gestures of tenderness, kisses and consolations, banal sequences capturing everyday actions go beyond the standards of a monotonous experiment, making ‘The Death of Ian Hall’ a complex, problematic, painful, but at the same time extremely (to return to the same concept mentioned above) aesthetical through the evocative force of old age finding in the joy of loving its supreme goal.
For the courage to fight against the prejudices of those who believe that “love lasts three years”, for the visual poetry with which it manages to create from the apparent sordid matter of old age a monument of tenderness, for the expressiveness of the actors and, last but not least, for the honest sensibility defining the chemistry between two individuals who have found their vocation in the love for his or her partner, ‘The Death of Ian Hall’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the April 2018 edition of TMFF.