Discussion about the 22 films featured at the Dietrich Theater’s 2018 Fall Film Festival on Friday ran the gauntlet of emotion - ranging from corruption, greed, and social consciousness to sharing memories of one of America’s best loved icons of the 20th Century.
Some of the most spirited discussions occurred during ‘Puzzle,’ starring Kelly Macdonald. Macdonald portrays Agnes, a bored housewife who feels stuck in her mundane existence. Things change when she discovers a knack for doing jigsaw puzzles, after receiving one as a birthday gift.
Bill Chapla said he found a lot of similarities between ‘Puzzle’ and ‘The Bridges of Madison County,’ starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Both films deal with women who are unsatisfied with life, and have an affair with someone because they find them exciting.
“I think ‘Puzzle’ had a little more edge to it,” he said.
Esther Harmatz said that what affected her most about the film was a scene at the beginning. Agnes was shown preparing for a birthday party - making a cake, putting out decorations, setting up the table.
“It was only when people started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her that I realized it was her birthday party,” she explained.
Although Agnes’ husband was depicted as a good man, she said, the scene demonstrated how subservient she is to her lifestyle.
‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ is a documentary about Fred Rogers, who, for more than 30 years, enthralled children of all ages on ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.’
Anne Davis recalled how, after her children had finished watching ‘Sesame Street,’ they would watch “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ while she was cooking dinner.
“He just lulled them to sleep with that soft voice of his,” she said.
Gary VanVranken said that one of the most poignant things he found about the film was despite all the wonderful things Rogers did, he was still plagued by doubts during his career.
The comment sparked more memories from other participants. Harmatz said she’s impressed that Rogers was always willing to tackle difficult subjects with children that many other adults would prefer to avoid - such as assassination of political figures and 9-11.
“He was always willing to talk to children without talking down to them,” she said.
On a more sinister subject, the group discussed the ramifications of ‘Three Identical Strangers.’ The film is a true story about triplets separated at birth who are sent to live with three different families. The male triplets unite on their 19th birthday, and at first it seems like a dream come true. But then it is revealed that the separation was a medical experiment, as part of a ‘nature versus nurture’ study, to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances.
Davis said she found the film ‘twisted,’ and was appalled when she learned that the doctor who set up the experiment was a Holocaust survivor.
“It’s just unfathomable to me,” she said.