Review: House of Dolls
- Tudor Platon’s documentary debut explores some of family life’s simple truths
Though simple and straightforward, Romanian director Tudor Platon’s debut feature House of Dolls [+see also:
film profile] is a powerful invitation to reconsider our opinion about the elderly. Focusing on a group of 70-something ladies going to the countryside for a week in order to reconnect with each other and themselves, the documentary becomes an endearing list of what to do in order to stay fresh even as you grow old. After making its world debut in the Romanian Days sidebar at the 19th Transilvania International Film Festival, House of Dolls will be competing in the documentary competition at the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival.
The informal setting of the documentary is obvious from the very first frame, as we see Tudor Platon — who has already made of name for himself in the Romanian film industry as a cinematographer — setting up his camera in the van meants to transport the protagonists to the villa where they will enjoy their week “far from the madding crowd.” And his access soon becomes obvious, too, as we learn he is the grandson of one of the protagonists, which he endearingly calls “nana.” The conversations between the director and his grandmother become the backbone of this film that also explores the essence of family.
House of Dolls is especially refreshing as it comes from a country where the elderly rarely do more than spend long hours in front of the TV. As we see the “dolls” having fun over a glass of wine and reminiscing about the ups and downs in their friendship spanning five decades, we understand how important this kind of respite is. Always busy or prisoners to a certain routine, we are all in danger of becoming victims of time, which can insidiously make every day look the same, a sensation which is now even more obvious as we struggle to leave behind months of social distancing. In this context, watching House of Dolls definitely comes with a certain amount of envy...
But the strength of the documentary resides in its mix of humour and drama, as not all is exactly perfect in the lives of the ladies enjoying their week of freedom. Past tragedies, moments of abuse and struggles against deadly illnesses casually show up in the conversation, but the tone is so light and hopeful that the documentary slowly becomes a useful mantra: life can be hard, but moving on and having fun is mandatory. One would wish that in their 70s, one would be as good-natured and energetic as the protagonists of this film that has only one defect: at less than 70 minutes, it is too short!
House of Dolls is not only an invitation to fight time’s devastating effect, but also to fight the generation gap. In a world where things move so fast, it is easy to focus on our peers and sometimes ignore the elderly. In this respect, Platon’s endeavor is exemplary and his interactions with his grandmother and her friends show how much the youngsters have to learn from older, more experienced people. It also shows that support and exchange of experience are at the heart of the idea of family.
House of Dolls was produced by Romania’s microFilm and Film Cartel.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.