There is a problem our society does not know how to address. We do not know how to discuss it, and the workload becomes the family's secret burden. Dementia and Alzheimer's are wholly destructive diseases which deprive our elderly of their cognitive functions – and these diseases will eventually destroy everything. Rarely are they the subject of films, making rare appearances in Still Alice and most recently, Supernova.
Ramkrishna Chanda and Biplab Das' short film, The Thistle Ball focusses on dementia and the effects it has on its victims and their families. Sibatosh (Tapan Kumar Mitra) is a respected elder in his community. After reading a book on the renaissance of Bengal, Sibatosh starts forgetting things, who his family is and what he is doing there. Confused and alone in this illness even though he's surrounded by family, he becomes increasingly incapable of feeding himself, communicating or relieving himself. The film then asks the intriguing question: is Sibatosh's disease a spiritual response to an increasingly unspiritual world instead?
Whatever the answer to this question, The Thistle Ball, is a remarkably moving portrayal of the difficulties of caring for someone with dementia. Although Sibatosh is mostly quiet throughout the film, his pain is beautifully acted. With a simple glance, he hints at the hopelessness and cluelessness at his situation. The rest of the cast features brilliant acting, with Sibatosh's extended family painfully going through the motions of caring for an older relative who doesn't recognise them anymore. The beautiful deep ocean blue tones and the sandy, hazy filter over the film's imagery emphasise the gentleness and care lovingly infused throughout the work. The end result is an incredibly honest and beautiful portrait of what it is like to lose someone who doesn't really comprehend who they are. With this kind of subject matter, it can be easy to choose a melodramatic score – something that emotionally manipulates and really pulls at the heartstrings. But within this film, that is not the case. The music fits perfectly; with every beat emphasising the emotional journey just so.
In navigating the choppy waters of a prolonged family illness, Chanda and Das Have accomplished something marvellous. The Thistle Ball is an affecting piece reflecting something that many people will have experienced. Cleverly the indescribable feeling of slowly losing a family member is put into images. It emotively connects but also soothes the viewer, which is an extraordinary feat.