The first movie to screen in Bandung chapter of German Cinema Film Festival 2013 is actually a documentary. The title is Vergiss Mein Nicht, which translates as: Forget Me Not. The director and writer, David Sieveking, choose a very personal subject for his third documentary, his mother.
Narrated by the director himself, David introduce us to his mother, Margarete Sieveking, affectionately nicknamed Gretel. Gretel is in her mid 70s, her hair has gone white as snow, her cheek still flushed alive, she also suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, like 2 million other people in Germany. Alzheimer is the most common form of dementia, commonly found in seniors (usually over 65 years old). David documentary does not focus solely on the his mother disease and his family struggle to cope with her. It’s actually a journey to rediscover and getting to know her mother for the woman that he is.
The movie captured the everyday life of 73 years old Gretel and the people around her as she struggled with her Alzheimer. We see how Gretel daily life goes and Malte, her husband, and David try to encourage and support her. At first i thought the documentary will be capitalizing on the disease. I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually took us to a more intimate level by getting to know the woman herself not the disease that defined her now. As we get to know Gretel, it seems the family also have their own struggle of how they see their relationship with her. It is interesting to see each member of the family seems to renewed their bonds especially in relation to Gretel.
There are moments that touches me the most was when Gretel clings to Malte before he went to Swiss for a personal vacation. Then as David accompanied his mom in his absence, Gretel started to adress him as ‘Malte’ as well. It was both endearing and heart rending. As we journeyed on through the past and learned about Gretel’s own family, her childhood, her youth, her early adult life. We saw the contrast between Gretel as she is and what she is through other people eyes. We learn the way Gretel and Malte started out as a young couple and they decided to have an open marriage, both seems to be free-spirited at first and independent. And now we see Malte struggle as he tried to keep a piece of himself yet he seemingly conflicted with his responsibility to provide the best care for Gretel. Then when he found her secret diaries that dated back to the time of his affairs during the early years of their marriage, he found out how she really felt. ‘A secret makes a woman, women‘, afterall…
This is not my first documentary, but i haven’t seen this type of documentary before, which subject was so private and personal. The whole documentary was tender and definitely abundant with emotions. But it was so well balanced as the film was done in a distance that allows us to become an observer and did not capitalize on the tragedy. Rather, the film invite us into the intimate world, and along with the Sieveking family, we are allowed to say goodbye to the women we get to know about, within the 88 minutes of the film duration.
Vergiss Mein Nicht delivers a private story that resonates to a universal story of love, loss, rediscovery, and family. It does not exploits the tragedy, instead it inspire and uplifts. David Sieveking had made this movie a beautiful ode for his beloved mother, a love letter from a son. Before the screening, just from reading the short synopsis provided by GCFF website, i thought the title Vergiss Mein Nicht (Forget Me Not) must’ve been an appeal from the son to his mother not to forget him. But as i mulled over the film, the film seems like a silent plea from Gretel to her family to never forget her. And isn’t that just painfully beautiful?
Vergiss Mein Nicht won the first prize for Semaine de la Critique segment at the 2012 International Film Festival of Locarno, Best Documentary at Hessian Film Award, and Award from Goethe Institut at Leipziger Festival for Documentary and Animation films.
VERGISS MEIN NICHT (2013)
GENRE Documentary, Biopic
DIRECTOR David Sieveking | PRODUCER Martin Heisler, Carl-Ludwig Rettinger, David Sieveking | WRITER David Sieveking | MUSIC Jessica de Rooij | CINEMATOGRAPHER Adrian Stähli | EDITOR Catrin Vogt | DISTRIBUTOR Farbfilm Verleih | COUNTRY Germany | RUNNING TIME 88 minutes | RELEASE January 31, 2013
CAST Margarete Sieveking, Malte Sieveking, David Sieveking
This film was screened at 2013 German Cinema Film Festival. Courtesy of Goethe Institute.