Germany – 2011
Directed by Andreas Dresen IMDB:
“Forty-year old healthy Frank has been diagnosed with an Inoperable brain tumor and suddenly condemned to only a few months to live. It’s a shock to a life seemingly on track with a steady job and a new house in the suburbs. But together Frank and his family push through with their daily life of work and school. Frank tries to cope with the difficulty of accepting the Inevitable: increasing symptoms of the Illness and medical treatment. He uses his IPhone as a kind of emotional diary. The decision to home care Frank puts an immense strain on loving Simone and ends up distancing the family members as much as it keeps them together. A story about death that celebrates life.” (www.europeanfilmawards.eu)
“Forty-year-old Frank and his wife Simone are shocked and speechless when the friendly but helpless doctor explains the devastating diagnosis of Frank’s brain tumour. It is inoperable, and he has about three months to live. How does one come to terms with this kind of situation; how to tell the children Mika and Lili?
At first, the family tries to keep to their daily routine until Frank has to stop working. Simone takes on the demanding task of caring for her husband at home. We witness tender and funny moments as well as the strain the family has to shoulder. It is troubling to see Frank’s mental and physical deterioration, but one can also laugh at the scurrile and unwittingly crazy scenes. For some viewers it might be an all-to-accurate and realistic portrayal of Frank’s dying, but some of the funny and poetic scenes will make up for it. This emotionally touching film never becomes melodramatic and surprisingly left me with positive feeling.
The temperamental outbursts by Steffi Khunert as the wife and Milan Peschel as the cancer patient are convincing, contrasting the tender moments. Also the two children (Mika Seidel and Talisa Lilly Lemke) have to be praised for acting their very natural characters. Filmmaker Andreas Dresen is taking a brave, honest and unsentimental look at death. He even abstains from using any music score and engaged laymen, like the doctor, nurse and care personnel, to act their parts in the film. This makes for a particularly authentic touch. At the film festival in Cannes 2011, the movie received the highest award in the category Un Certain Regard”. (Birgit Schrumpf for http://www.kinocritics.com)
Review 2 (may contain obvious spoilers)
“How do you depict the intangible? How do you put on screen what‘s so hard to grasp and understand in real life? Above all how do you manage to capture it in a way that is not overwhelming and romanticized, but rather honest and appropriate? The film Stopped on Track manages to do all this and maybe even more. Andreas Dresen‘s most recent fiction film is an intimate portrait of the development of a terminal brain tumor. The film sets off with a long opening scene in which the central character Frank (Milan Peschel) together with his wife Simone (Steffi Kühnert) receive his diagnoses. This opening takes unfamiliar, extensive and excruciating eight minutes in which the doctor (Uwe Träger) unfurls Frank‘s prognosis. During the scene the camera pans between the doctor, Frank and his wife, capturing their aghast and confused expressions letting us witness how both try to get a grip of what has just hit them. Much is said in the speechless, awkward moments that continuously appear during this interaction. It seizes the absurdity of the scenario of having to tell someone that they will die, not to mention being the one on the receiving end of these news. The story then develops with the progression of the cancer and focuses on how the family surrounding it‘s brilliant protagonist Milan Peschel as Frank, copes with the finite nature of the scenario. Dresen presents the fleeting nature of the last few months of a dying family man as heartfelt and without drama. The film exhibits the everyday routines unhinged from the ease they usually bare, as a fundamental factor – being able to execute them – is not a given anymore.
Natural lighting, extreme close-ups and mostly improvised dialogue, juxtaposed with a well composed editing are enacted to document this journey. It is an intimate portrait that doesn‘t shy away from this grave side of life. In Stopped on Track Dresen shows the pain, the anger, the absurdity and the bitter truth of fighting mental and physical decay without any true chance. The perspective balances between sympathy, neutral distance and a grim humor only a terminal patient can develop. Story, aesthetics and acting create this beautifully complete symbioses of a saddening whole. The film isn‘t overcharged with the dramatic lasts one could dive into in the light of fatale awareness, instead it follows a rather natural, in real life embedded, narrative. Frank‘s death is the inevitable ending yet not the culmination of a dramatized arche. It is a film that will most likely last longer then the two hours its viewers will spent with it, as Dresen takes his audience to somewhere very real. It is impossible to remain untouched by what is presented on screen, in large part due to Milan Peschel‘s outstanding performance. While excruciating to witness at times (i.e. when Frank uses his daughter‘s room as a bathroom, lost on where the latter actually is located in his home), the film never seems to exploit the fate of his characters, but to accept the inevitable and find a sensitive tone to capture it. In a strange balance between mental outbursts and clear stagnation that is how Dresen composes his film. Varying between long-stretched scenes and temporal jumps, creating the paradoxical nature of experiencing time; it always seems out of pace – too slow, too fast – never right, yet continuously moving forward.” (Merle Fischer for http://www.soundonsight.org)