In her previous documentary film Marta Minorowicz observed the creation of the bond between an elderly man living in the wilderness of Bieszczady Mountains and his grandson. In “A Piece of Summer” the camera encapsulated the man and his emotions. Equally, or even more intimate is the atmosphere of her next documentary “Decrescendo”, in which the viewer is a witness to the relation-building between the residents of the rest home and their younger visiting psychologist Tomek. Finding one’s way in and parting with life, youth and old age, the will of existence and the acceptance of time passing – these are the antonyms that characterise this remarkable film.

The opening scenes of “Decrescendo” portray elderly people. Within this feature of the weary and much-experienced faces a young and fresh one suddenly appears – it belongs to Tomek, who works at the rest home as a psychologist. The man’s great commitment and input into his work is noticeable from the very beginning; one could even assume he does it out of pure pleasure. Tomek talks to the elderly residents with ease, not disregarding their most peculiar words or ideas, and he treats every one of them in an individual manner. He addresses them by their name and tries to divide his time equally between all that seek his attention. Tomek plays cards with a resident, reads a newspaper to another one, he talks with one woman about grandchildren and friendship, and about flowers with a different one, and practices the hands movements with a ballet artist. The last one mentioned, on the one hand, accepts the process of passing, and, on the other, still lives in the past; he used to be successful as a dancer, and now he walks with crutches. The man asks Tomek a question that no one can answer: Why? Why was he – a dancer - so painfully experienced and lost control over his own body? He also asks Tomek what such a young person like him is doing in a place like that, if he could choose differently. The psychologist replies: “The beauty of a conversation does not depend on the beauty of the interlocutor.”

But the viewer also wonders why a person like Tomek chose to work in a rest home. The exaggerated care of his looks that Tomek takes substantially contrasts with the image of passing. However, paying attention to his looks does not prevent the man from focusing on another person. In one moment he powders his nose and adjusts the glasses, and in the other he listens intently to someone pouring their heart out, and he gives them advice. Even the New Year’s Eve he decides to spend in the company of the rest home’s residents, and it seems that he has a good time. Extremely uplifting is the fact that the young psychologist behaves as if he really was happy having those people around. His behavior does not give away a trace of irritation, or the demotivating awareness of sacrifice. Clearly he can appreciate the value of the elderly people’s company and he learns from it. Marta Minorowicz has depicted the man who opposes the dominant trends that negate the existence of old age and death. Although the young psychologist is a supporter of the cult of youth and takes care of his looks, he decides on the regular contact with passing, ugliness, sadness, bitterness and the feeling of unfulfilment and rejection.

Marta Minorowicz’s documentary film raises associations with the fiction film “Before Twilight” (dir. Jacek Blawut, 2008), which tells the story of the residents of the Senior Actors’ Home. In both cases the people pushed out from the arena of life find its sparkle anew when there is a goal before them. Whereas for Jacek Blawut’s actors the goal is to prepare and stage a play, for the residents of the rest home from Marta Minorowicz’s film the moment to look forward to is the conversation with Tomek. It is extremely important to them that someone out of their world, young and energetic, pays attention and devotes his time to them. It is the greatest gift that can be given to them.

Marta Minorowicz has shown yet again that she possesses a great documentary talent and sensitivity. The frames from “Decrescendo”, such as of the man looking at his mobile phone through the magnifying glass, or of the swinging legs of a person on a rocking chair suggest that she skilfully observes reality and credibly depicts its fragment.

By Olga Słowiakowska

(Translated by Agnieszka Mruk)