A Decent Man, when normality turns to madness
by Muriel Del Don
- Zurich-born director Micha Lewinsky’s film, which had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival, is a disturbing portrait of a run-of-the-mill family
A Decent Man [+see also:
film profile], which was screened in the international competition of this year’s Zurich Film Festival hits you right in the chest, where it hurts. Micha Lewinsky’s film centres on an apparently united, happy family which slowly but surely reveals its true nature, flaws and countless weaknesses. Despite its ‘normal’ appearance, a sign of belonging in a society where appearances are everything, the family unit portrayed by this Zurich-born director is brought face to face with inconvenient truths and secrets that have remained hidden for too long.
Thomas (played powerfully by Devid Striesow) is a jovial man, committed to his family and willing to do anything to make his wife, Martina, and his daughter, Jenny, happy. Although the two girls don’t seem very enthusiastic, Thomas organises a week-long holiday in the Alps in the utopian hope of being able to relax and enjoy the apparent harmony of his family to the full. Sarah, the daughter of his boss, joins them and this certainly doesn’t help things. Thomas lets the two girls go to a party organised by Severin, the son of a friend. It’s a night that has grave consequences for Sarah and for Thomas, who prefers to turn a blind eye rather than tackle the problem like a responsible adult. The weight of all the lies and guilt drags him into a spiral of cowardly madness from which he will never emerge.
What happens when lies lead to prison? Thomas, the anti-hero of A Decent Man is faced with this burdensome question, the (in)voluntary victim of a world built on lies and false appearances. Thomas is swallowed up by a parallel world where weakness and error don’t seem to exist, washed away as if by magic. But what’s the price of this apparent miracle? Micha Lewinsky paints the portrait of a fragile and insecure man who fails to take on the role assigned to him by society of father, brilliant journalist and understanding husband. In actual fact, his family life is heading down the pan and with it, his job, which isn’t bringing him the satisfaction he hoped for. Roles (both family and societal) crumble and the difficult task of rebuilding his identity risks driving Thomas mad. His is a constant struggle for harmony and normality in a society that has lost control and refuses to accept his naïve ‘no frills’ vision of the world. Love turns to hate with unsettling ease and violence replaces tenderness in a surreal sequence of events.
Micha Lewinsky portrays a man who is forced, against his will, to live with violence that’s an innate part of him. Despite his apparent submission to a sometimes domineering wife who no longer loves him and a manipulative employer who plays on his weaknesses, Thomas is ready to explode. The weight of his responsibilities, to his family and to society, set him off and the consequences are devastating. Appearances can often be deceiving and danger lurks around every corner, patiently hiding behind a thin veil of normality.
A Decent Man is being sold worldwide by Plan B Film.
(Translated from Italian)