The Voice in the Evening

The Voice in the Evening (Stimme des Abends) is a socio-political, poetic film that raises the issue of how we deal with the increasingly ageing population in our society and those people’s place in our lives. The film provokes discussion, gives us pause for thought and is delicately touching.

Content
The documentary ‚The Voice in the Evening’ takes place in a care home for the elderly that is closed to the outside world due to the coronavirus. Outdoor walks can only go as far as the home’s enclosed garden, with blossoming flowers triggering memories – how are things looking at home? Bent double in her wheelchair, Margarete writes letters to her grandchildren, friends and family; and in her diary she processes those heartfelt questions and complaints in the final stage of her life. Although we know that we have to die, shouldn’t this part of our lives still also have quality? This is the deep-seated concern of Mathias, the manager of the home. But why are we afraid of death and do we understand the needs of people who are elderly? Lived experiences are taken into the world as resources for our society, thus making the people in the film beacons of hope, especially in this period marked by distance.

‘Stimme des Abends’ (‘The Voice in the Evening’) – a poetic homage to people in the final stage of their lives and to everyone who enables them to have a life with dignity.

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Screen 1 – The Voice in the Evening

Background
April 2020, the world is standing still. People are keeping their distance. Doors are closed. Vulnerable groups are shielded. Those most affected are the elderly residents in old people’s homes and care homes – and their loved ones. Life and death now take place away from the public and from the pandemic. How does it feel, after an influential, independent and self-reliant life, to now live shielded from the outside world being looked after in an old people’s home or care home? What is it like to be a carer in this situation? The manager of the institution? Working in the kitchen or as a cleaner, caretaker – or in the office? What is it like for the relatives – no longer able to visit? And what about the residents who can’t see their loved ones anymore?

For twelve days over the family festival of Easter, Veronika Müller Mäder and Jürg Mäder went into self-isolation in a care home in the Rhine Valley region in the canton of St. Gallen. They were open to what they would encounter and what was to emerge from the material and the responses they gathered. They had a video camera, a still camera and an audio recorder with them.

Numerous conversations with staff members at all hours of the day and night, communal meals and walks in the garden with the residents, structured interviews with the management and the extremely personal process, as the relative of a resident, who laid bare the process of dying over these days, all contributed to the creation of a whole piece that raises new questions. What is it that has shaped a person’s life? What lasts? What gives life meaning? What is life in old age worth?

With the most basic technical equipment, Jürg Mäder and Veronika Müller Mäder immerse themselves in daily life at the care home. Corona loses its central significance and fades into the background. The person, with their questions, fears and thoughts becomes more important. The Swiss filmmaker Michelle Brun took on the dramatic lead during post-production in the form of editing and directing. She also ensured that interviews, photos, film footage as well as the letters and diary entries submitted by a resident were all interwoven to create an impressive whole.

Location: ‚Pflege und Hospiz im Werdenberg‘ care home
The care home ‘Pflege und Hospiz im Werdenberg’ stands out due to its human and life-affirming concept in care and end-of-life care. Running counter to the present global situation, with the current necessary health and safety precautions in place; managers Mathias Engler and Daniel Schmitter opened the home’s doors immediately. Jürg Mäder and Veronika Müller Mäder gained an insight into all nursing wards and work areas at all hours of the day and night. In the film, the institution is not recognisable as such. It is representative of the countless care homes working with great dedication to the well-being of the elderly and fragile, doing their best every day to ensure that the time residents spend in the home meets their needs and affords them the best possible quality of life.