We got a quite lengthy review in Germany’s most famous newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung today from one of the country’s most highly regarded film critics Michael Hanfeld. It’s titled “You Can Forget Your Father.” Pretty appropriate, I’d say. Sounds like Herr Hanfeld ‘got’ it. Besides the usual plot description with occasional comment, the review also goes off on the ‘homeless America’ the film portrays: “It’s the land Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen sing about, the one John Steinbeck described, a land in which a person can become lost or invisible. Herr Hanfeld continues on to discuss the late German filmmaker Christian Bauer’s film “Missing Allen,” in which Bauer travels the US in search of his American cameraman, who has mysteriously vanished. It’s a terrific film, and I believe this is the first review to draw a comparison between the two films.
It’s strange how some reviews succeed at compacting both the film’s complex storyline and the emotional journey of my family and I into a relatively small space. Reading this nearly three years after the world premiere in Amsterdam, it feels like the film has been put into a box which can be put away high up on a shelf. The trauma of my father’s amnesia will probably never completely fade, but making the film and going public with it has put a frame around the whole ordeal and somehow helped contain it. Although it’s a nice feeling that the film will be showing on Germany’s largest TV station ZDF less than an hour from now, it’s no longer all that important to me. There’s more to life than trying to solve the mystery of my father’s amnesia.
Looking back on my last encounters with my father, it seems he was trying to tell me to not end up like him. In his sometimes awkward way, he was trying to give me some kind of advice on how to cherish what is going on in my life here and now rather than harping on the past or being overly pre-occupied with the future. He has yet to apologize for anything from his past, but he has regret written all over him.
You’ve got to love the long German word Herr Hanfeld uses to describe the feeling Justin and I had upon visiting our father at the end of the film: ‘erbarmungswürdig’ – ‘pitiful’ or ‘pitiable,’ or literally ‘worthy of pity.’ That’s a feeling that hasn’t gone away.
My father has taught me many valuable lessons in life, but the most valuable one yet is showing me vividly with his tortured mind and body how I don’t want to end up. As odd as it may sound, I’m thankful to him for this.