“The father”, a story that dislocates | Starring Anthony Hopkins


The Father, Great Britain / France, 2020

Direction: Florian Zeller

Film script: Christopher Hampton and F. Zeller, on the latter’s play

Duration: 97 minutes

Interpreters: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Mark Gattis, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell

Premiere at Cinemark Palermo, Cinépolis Recoleta, Showcase Belgrano, Belgrano Multiplex, Atlas Patio Bullrich.

Given the repercussion it had a few months ago, when Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar (It was not enough for Argentina to be released on time), it is possible that at this point everyone knows every last detail of The father. As despite this, any reader has the right not to know, it will be necessary to make detours to avoid espoilear. The film of French director Florian Zeller, based on his play and co-written with the renowned Christopher Hampton (Dangerous relationships, Atonement, desire, and sin and a few more), is designed to surprise and disorient to the viewer, at least for a good part of its journey. There are reasons for this.

The film begins with a middle-aged woman (Olivia Colman), which arrives at a London building of classical construction. Open the door of an apartment, enter and find the father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins, perfect), abstracted with headphones on. Until they are removed, the musical snippet functions as the soundtrack for that entire opening scene. Anne comes to talk to him, as he mistreated the woman who was taking care of him. At one point in the dialogue Anthony mentions his other daughter, who seems to be the favorite. Anne contains a gesture of anguish and represses a comment that seems painful. Instead, he announces to his father that he will move to Paris, since he met a French man with whom they became very good friends and decided to try his luck there. The whole conversation is awkward, there is an air of strangeness, things not said. When Anthony finds a stranger quietly reading the newspaper in the living room the next morning, things go dark brown.

Situations that do not close, characters that do not seem to be in their place, places that may not be what you think, data that exclude each other and close relatives who change their faces generate confusion. When the puzzle begins to arm himself -although he never does it completely-, when it is understood that this apparent lack of logic really responds to an alternate logic, the viewer will perhaps notice that the feeling of astray that has suddenly torn him away from the reality of all the days, coincides with that of a cracked mind. The story works like Anthony’s headphones: you hear what they allow you to hear. And these headphones don’t work well.

So far, everything is fine, everything fits, thanks to the astute handling of one of the key tools of all narration, the point of view: the viewer sees what the protagonist sees. But if you recapitulate, you will see that there are scenes that Anthony may not have seen. Without going any further than the beginning itself, when Anne comes walking down the street. And after that several more, like all the dialogues between Anne and her husband? If Anthony doesn’t see them, then who? The account has no answer to this key question, and what appeared to be a clever and appropriate handling of point of view is revealed to be Half-accomplished contraption.

Although this narrative device -which on the other hand is not new- would seem to be the plus that the film has to offer, the most valuable of The father really comes in the second part, when that building of cards gives way to something less “original”, less striking, more universal and more profound: the emotion. Sadness, pain, in particular. Sadness and pain to see, to experience, the decline, the helplessness, the definitive loss of lucidity of that father that the title names and that could be that of any of us. That we could one day be ourselves. There the point of view is inverted and becomes dense: it is that of the beings close to Anthony, and together with them that of the spectator.

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“The father”, a story that dislocates | Starring Anthony Hopkins