2017 Hot Docs ‘A Home in Memory’

A Home in Memory by Helena Ȍst is a meditative film rich with meaning which explores the process of letting go as two sisters face the daunting task of sorting through the belongings of deceased relatives.  

The film opens with a close up of a composed still life of a faded black and white photograph of two lovely young girls smiling, a cell phone, placed over a floor plan which is laid over a crotched doily over a coffee table.  We hear two elderly women carrying on a conversation but never see them.  We hear the dripping of a water faucet.  The film fades to black and the title of the film appears in Finnish ’till minne av ett hem’.  The film fades from black to a close up of a photograph of two mature women smiling and then cuts to a dining room table covered with piles of photographs, and a magnifying glass.  Four chairs encircle the dining room table and a photo album lies on top of the chairs.  The film cuts to a wide angle shot of an interior view of the apartment then cuts to an image of a calendar on a wall opened to the date December 2013.

We become acquainted with images of the apartment as the film moves from room to room.  It is filled with stuff.  There’s furniture, glass cases bursting with knickknacks, time pieces in every room, bookshelves of books, cabinets filled with boxes of slides, and piles of photographs.  We never meet the two sisters but only catch a glimpse of their former selves through photographs.  We are privy to their thoughts and conversations as they reminisce, sort and go through their parents’ and aunt’s belongings now vacant since their 94 year old aunt has died.  Their parents predeceased the aunt.   Both sisters moved out in 1971 with one moving to South Africa.  The dripping sound of water reoccurs throughout the film as a motif for the passage of time.  As they sort through the family home, they are surprised to find more photographs of their family.  As they reminisce and reflect, they come to terms with the meaning of home. 

Three quarters through the film we hear different voices, men’s voices.  One of the men says, “How many rooms?”  One replies, “Seven, plus the kitchen.”  Frame after frame the homestead begins to shed its belongings until it is devoid of any personal possessions and furniture.  The final image is of an empty apartment and some packed bags. 

Ȍst has done a masterful job universalizing the experience of letting go through the voices of the two sisters as they sort their family’s belongings and has captured on film the impermanence of life as the apartment once filled with meaning and treasured belongings becomes an empty shell and changes hands.  It is a well-crafted film with much depth and explores the meaningful topic of loss and memory.  Do see it for you won’t be disappointed.

A Home in Memory will be playing at various theatres:
Scotiabank Theatre 7 on May 2 @ 3:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here!

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