By Narda Liotine
Senility. The concept has changed hands. Cicero, Svevo, Simone de Beauvoir, Bergman, Ozu, and Dwoskin.
Dwoskin’s personal De Senectute is a jewel of contemporary reflection on the subject. Slight and affectionate, only apparently linear, AGE IS … is an expression of the author’s knowledge about old age, matured and developed from the basis of the essay La vieillesse by Simone de Beauvoir.
Ever since his first experimental works, Stephen Dwoskin has created powerful reflections using personal, subjective and unconventional language, together with knowledge and the concept of the self, conducted through the peephole of voyeurism. But the investigation has become extrapersonal and peculiar, with more inner reflection. The recognition of external borders and the foreign body gives the director the awareness of their existence. This prolonged elegy on disability (which has plagued him since he contracted polio at 9 years old) runs and innervates, with the sprinkling of extreme vitality. His productions, from Behindert (1974) to the recent The Sun and The Moon (2007) via Trying to kiss the moon (1994), elaborate from the home movies of the years before the disease, without nostalgia. Pain is … (1977) is a daring reflection on the subject of illness and disability.
With narrative canons of classical tragedy investigating human life through its mythos, it paints a bleak picture about the troubled existence of the human being, his parable to conquest, madness, death. In the fresco the only tragic element to remain ‘off screen’ as a taboo is murder and blood, in order to prevent the eye from pain. The narrative is characterized by recurring themes: pornography, violence, and aging. Compared to the ancient man, the modern one indulges in pornography and violence, leading to a leitmotiv of his human expressions, avoiding old age, censoring it. Senility is for Dwoskin a contingent circumstance and he decides to convey the portraits and self-portraits such as those donated by Tonino and Marinella de Bernardi, friends and relatives in close-ups that are able to secularize grief without appearing pathetic. As he pulls his head back to breathe better or to escape from a reckless spasm, Stephen also appears among others, freeing in a single stroke disability and disease from accusations of obscenity, finally showing with complex ingenuity the human genius and sentimentalism in wrinkles and illness, while life as a river flows again and the wind still ruffles the leaves.