The Farewell Party
Starring: Ze'ev Revach, Aliza Rosen, Levana Finkelstein, Ilan Dar
Directors: Tal Granit, Sharon Maymon
Release Date: June 12, 2015
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
There is dignity in death and The Farewell Party searches for it in humorous bursts of empathy.
It begins with an elderly tinkerer ringing up an older woman. “This is God,” he says, and the woman, senile and confused, believes him. “You are certainly going to heaven, but we have no vacancies, so you must get your treatment.” The woman nods.
At this point you realize you’re in for for something very unique, and likely heartbreaking.
The tinkerer is Yehezkel (Ze’ev Recach) and he is watching his best friend suffer in pain in a care facility. His prognosis is terminal. Morphine no longer works, and he’s developing bedsores that are increasingly painful. His wife, at the end of her rope, suggests they end his agony and the gears in Yehezkel’s head begin spinning.
What happens next is a devastating examination of mercy as Yehezkel and his band of helpers plan, build and implement a euthanasia machine. The device is crude -- it is driven by a small motor and a bicycle chain, and uses drugs intended for animals -- but it is effective at ending the suffering of Yehezkel’s “patients,” who seek him out at great risk for themselves and their loved ones.
The Farewell Party handles all this in a serious way, but you can’t help but smile at its subtle brand of bleak comedy, from the gay man literally trapped in the closet and an overzealous traffic cop repeatedly talked out of writing tickets, to a touching scene with much of the elderly cast nude and high in a greenhouse to cheer up a friend with dementia. The gallows humor manages to give brief reprieves between each heartbreaking death.
The Israeli film, directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon, is beautifully staged and photographed. The camera almost never moves, preferring instead static shots that give the scenes and their terrifying implications reverence. When it does move, in a lovely musical number and later in a tragic moment of realization for Yehezkel, it does so to punctuate the delicate nature of life and death.
It ends precisely where you want it to, but it stings even as it rings true. This is a beautiful film, one that gazes long and hard into the soul of the dying, and those who look over them.