Colours in the Dark was, for me, the outstanding film at this year’s Festival of German Films at the Kino and Como cinemas. Retirement age couple Fred and Anita seem content on the surface but they face difficult issues. Fred still goes to the office just to have some space to himself outside the home. He also buys an apartment without telling Anita, who is enraged when she accidentally finds out, but it’s not so he can seduce his secretary.
Courtesy of Beta Cinema / copyright: used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 / c2010
Fred has prostate cancer and is calmly planning a dignified end to life. Originally made for TV in Germany, this film was considered strong enough to receive international cinema distribution, and I can see why – it is confronting but also gentle and compassionate.
It’s not entirely clear why Fred needs an apartment just to think in, but it’s really symbolic of his desire to retain some individuality in the face of Anita’s controlling behaviour. When she learns about the flat she abruptly leaves the family home and signs into a retirement village, but when she realises Fred is not actually leaving her she returns.
It’s also not clear why Anita chooses to die with Fred, and we learn nothing of her health. The inference is that she doesn’t want to live without him, although she would not be alone – they have adult children and grandchildren. I found this aspect of the film the most disturbing.
Should it get a separate release from the festival here, or appear on SBS in a couple of years, I recommend it, especially if you have an interest in freedom of speech, individual autonomy and integrity, and the right to choose a dignified end of life.
Opponents of voluntary euthanasia need to realise that the majority of Australians are in favour of choice, and this film is a powerful expression of the freedom we want defined in law.