Enter your email address to receive weekly essays:

Check your inbox for a verification request. Thank you!

in defense of the human spirit

by Judy
April 12, 2015

There is a power in communion. Yes, when I write, so much gets revealed, but there is a particular power in communion, in sharing together, in being transparent about our experience in relationship to caregiving, to life, death, aging…to Alzheimer’s. Our transparency touches the other whether it fits our own experience or not, still it resonates and that has an effect way beyond what we could imagine.

Today there were only three of us in our Caregiver’s Virtual Circle; Andrea, myself and one other woman, and we went deeper into each person’s narrative. I shared an experience that I had in a half-awake state where I heard my mom moaning in the middle of the night and I flashed back on the movie “Amour” where the husband literally kills his wife seemingly to put her out of her suffering. It’s a very horrifying scene. In that early morning waking up state I got a glimpse of how he felt as I thought of my mom and not wanting her to be in pain, but of course I would never kill my mom and the pain she felt was temporary. I shared this whole story with the three of us…it was raw and touched everyone. Talking together brought me back again to this movie, “Amour,” that I had seen a while ago – back to wanting to untangle why it was so disturbing.

The movie “Amour” got rave reviews, won many awards and had two wonderful French actors. It was beautifully acted and directed. The camera work was sensitive in only the way Europeans can do it – long shots, delicately filmed and yet and yet I felt such an aversion to the way the story unfolds. The view being presented was biased and left so much of reality out. It was relentlessly heavy. I thought thank goodness in Life and in Art there is relief – there are moments or more than moments of relief that come through, but the director, Michael Haneke, chose not to show any of that. Even in caregiving, when it gets very hard, usually there is some light somewhere, at some time.

The film is the story of an elderly refined European couple whose life is radically altered when the wife has a stroke, gets progressively worse and the husband takes on more and more of the caregiving until at a certain point, the woman’s deterioration and suffering are so unbearable, he snuffs out her life. I had really wanted to see the film (not knowing the whole story) but aware it was not going to be easy to watch, but feeling it was very relevant and a subject matter that is rarely, until recently, set on film. I did not expect, however, for it to be SO bleak – a bombardment of darkness to the degree it was almost difficult to breathe.

I realize that art doesn’t always imitate life or vice versa and my own experience of caregiving is no doubt not as difficult as others, and still this film, to my mind, gave no way out, no other possibilities, no glimmer of light, One reviewer that I recently read pointed to so many possible choices that were never made by either the elderly man, the doctor or the daughter. He writes: “The couple become isolated, even rejecting offers of help from their daughter. For her part, a daughter better educated about disability might have said words of love to her mother, and persuaded her – while it was still possible – to go out for tea, out in her wheelchair, to visit a friend. The family doctor, who makes house calls, could certainly have provided adequate pain medication for Anne; morphine could have eased her passing. Georges had more compassionate alternatives available to him than smothering his wife with a pillow.”

Of course it is difficult to see anyone suffer, but to see someone who you love suffer is unbearable and one can imagine how the desire to put one’s loved one out of their pain could arise, but and this is the big but, has one done everything to alleviate their suffering?  And are there no moments, as I wrote earlier, of relief, of some human connection? I know in speaking to friends who have family members, for example, with Alzheimer’s, still there is a human connection that comes through, moments of tenderness.

So I come back again to why this film disturbed me. I don’t have all the answers, but there is a sense I was manipulated by the director/writer – manipulated by a film that was so “well-made," well-acted, intense beyond imagination, and in the end, what did it signify? Nothing. Where was the humanity, the depth or meaning? Especially when dealing with such a potentially difficult area of life as sickness and old age, I feel the film offends the human spirit, the spirit that is so much what Andrea and I are calling forth in our blogsite. We are calling forth and treasuring all and any spark of spirit that still burns in the human heart. That is what the director chose to ignore and that is a large reason why I take offense to this movie. 

Caregiver's Circle
Join Judy and Andrea in a free monthly conversation about this and other caregiving issues. Click here to learn more

Feel free to share your thoughts


comments powered by Disqus