Bed-ridden Alicia, 96, hasn’t long to live. Tended to by her daughters, filmed by her granddaughter, she gazes out her window. Her memory is going. Her appetite, too. How she used to love desserts! And yet she still makes others laugh and smile.
“Life is a hospital where every patient wants to switch beds.”
– Charles Baudelaire
Directed by Alicia Moncholí Lueje
Editing: Nicolau Mallofré, Alicia Moncholí Lueje
Sound: Kris G. Moncada, Nicolau Mallofré, Sara Olivares
Sound mixing, music: Kris G. Moncada
Colour grading: Joel Jimenez
Thanks to FPS Studio, Claudia Costafreda, Daniela Univazo, Isidro García, Karine Civet-Smague
Subtitling: Adrian Lancashire
Alicia Moncholí Filmmaker
“Everything was on a loop in this room.
Things went on outside,
but inside everything stayed the same.”
- This woman you filmed, confined to her bed, surrounded by her loved ones, has the same name as you, Alicia. Your grandmother was 96 when you filmed this. What message did you want to give with this very personal and intimate film?
The message formed on its own, bit by bit. When my mother and I went to the nursing home to visit her, the sad reality struck me hard. But at the same time, it was very endearing, seeing my grandmother’s joy each time she had a visit, and brought her a cake, That’s what made me want to film her, not just to depict her spritely, joyous personality — in spite of being stuck in bed — but also to show how important it is to keep old people company in these situations.
I wasn’t expecting to see this joy ebb away, little by little, until she didn’t want cake any more, and could hardly stay awake. I saw how frustrated my family became, insisting that she keep eating, and that she stay awake, in other words, stay alive.
It started to get tense in there. ‘Eat,’ my mother told her, and again and again she ‘d say, ‘I don’t want to any more.’ That’s when the documentary took a different turn. I began to ask myself whether this wasn’t a waiting room for death. Why is it so hard for us to accept this change? My grandmother died a few months ago. But in a way it was best, so she wouldn’t suffer any more.
- Was your grandmother aware you were in the room?
She was at the beginning. Since the filming went on for a long time, and at different times of the year, and my grandmother’s dementia came and went, in the end there were some days when she wasn’t aware.
- How did you convince your family to shoot such an intimate film?
I lived with my grandmother when I was small, and she was always there for me. The trust between us and between my mother and me meant I could go into her room freely, even without asking. My grandmother was also okay with us filming her, she found it fun, to ‘act in a film’.
It’s a very quiet film. We only see what goes on through the window of the room, the camera stays between these four walls. It’s as if you wanted people watching it to feel shut in.
I found it interesting for the spectator to identify with Alicia by being there, shut up in this room in the same way she was.
The sun coming in the window, the other patients complaining, the nurses going here and there. Everything was on a loop in this room. Things went on outside, but inside everything stayed the same. The only difference was whether it was daytime or night, or whether they bring you one thing to eat or another. The rest was all stagnant. The only thing that changes is your body, stuck closer and closer to the bed, and your spirit, further and further from reality.
The only difference is when your daughter comes to see you and she brings you a cake.
- Can you tell us about the very last shot in the film? It’s a very powerful image: a woman in the dark with her arms crossed, eyes shining, seeming angry, or resigned, or sad, or all three at the same time. Who is this, and why this choice?
It was my mother. This shot came out of one of the last days of filming. My mother saw my grandmother powerless, having to face this reality and accept it, knowing nothing could change it.
The way I saw it, this had to be placed at the end of the film, since, in a way, it’s my view as the director and the spectator’s view, who, even though he wants Alicia to live, can’t do anything about it.
- A word about the multilingual adaptation of your film?
It’s incredible to be able to show people of different nationalities these moments lived by my grandmother, in a little room in a village in the north of Spain.
Thank you for that.