After the entertaining, globetrotting docu “David Wants to Fly,” Teuton helmer David Sieveking once again figures as a character in his own work, but this time he keeps the focus closer to home — on his parent’s home, in fact. Made with humor and astonishing candor, “Forget-Me-Not” centers on his mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, but it also compellingly dissects his parents’ marriage and his upbringing, as well as that of his siblings. Critical kudos should attract viewers to the tough but tenderly handled subject matter. Fest play will segue to a German theatrical release in January; international broadcasters should also bite.
By the time Berlin-based Sieveking is able to help out at his parents’ large, attractive Bad Homburg home, it has been four years since his mother Gretel’s diagnosis. In spite of medication and therapy, her condition has deteriorated significantly and his father, Malte, a retired U. of Frankfurt math professor, is exhausted from serving as her primary caregiver.
When Malte leaves for a two-week vacation in Switzerland and the helmer takes on the task of caring for Mom, he provides details of his parents’ marriage in between prodding his reluctant mother to be more active. Although some may consider the filming to be unethical since she couldn’t provide an informed consent, his portrayal never seems exploitative; rather, it keeps the focus on her humanity instead of the illness. Moreover, it later becomes clear that both parents were accustomed to speaking frankly in front of his camera.
Gretel and Malte came of age in the 1960s, and embraced the era’s liberal values, including an open marriage, despite the jealousy Gretel suffered. In the early 1970s, Malte taught in Switzerland, and Gretel threw herself into radical politics. The director tracks down the couple’s security files at the State Archive in Bern, and locates his mother’s former lover, who speaks movingly about their affair.
Soon, it becomes apparent that guilt as well as love plays a factor in Malte’s determination to keep his wife of more than 40 years at home as long as possible. As the helmer attests, it was Gretel who kept the household running and raised him and his two older sisters in an anti-authoritarian style, while Malte contributed no more than the average male of his generation.
As with his first pic, Sieveking serves as narrator, and his spritely, empathetic commentary keeps the mood from becoming maudlin or overwhelmingly depressing. He not only provides a beautiful tribute to his mother, but manages to movingly convey how her illness forces the family to deal with their own conflicts in a constructive way, and brings them closer together.
Family photos and homemovies supplement lenser Adrian Stahli’s beautifully composed images. The appropriately used jaunty score by Jessica de Rooij also lightens the mood.