The scientifically solid To Dust makes for a bizarre buddy comedy
|National Post 18 Mar 2019 at 10:46|
Death gets the first word in To Dust, a bizarre buddy road-trip comedy about mourning. A woman has just passed away, and her Orthodox Jewish husband, Shmuel (Géza Röhrig of the Hungarian foreign-language Oscar winner Son of Saul), can’t stop thinking about the decomposition of her earthly remains.
Shmuel’s rabbi can’t help. He visits a funeral home but the showroom attendant, sensing this isn’t going to end in a sale, says nothing. So he goes looking for a scientist and winds up talking to a community college professor named Albert, played by Matthew Broderick (Jewish but hiding it).
Albert spends most of his class time arguing pronunciation with his students; is it echo-logical or E-co-logical? But he can’t resist a good puzzle, and slowly gets roped into the idea that if they take a pig and bury it like a Jew, they can keep track of the process of decay, and ease Shmuel’s troubled thoughts.
Soil chemistry can indicate putrefaction; it also sets up one of the film’s many quietly hilarious moments, when Albert says they need to test if the dirt around the grave is Hasidic. (A beat.) Acidic. Sorry.
Scientifically solid, and including a trip to an actual research institute in Tennessee that studies dead bodies, To Dust benefited from a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which promotes scientific literacy in film. Director/co-writer Shawn Snyder started work on it after the death of his mother, whose name pops up as the credits roll. Although before that dedication appears we see Shmuel with his two sons, who have spent most of the movie worried that their dad might be possessed by a dybbuk.
So death gets the first word in To Dust. But Shmuel gets the last one.
He routinely switches false beards, moustaches and hairstyles, even fake tattoos. She swaps wigs, scarves, glasses. Both have a catalog of fantasy names
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I am reminded of the Gomery inquiry. Quid pro quos, greasy influence over civil servants, too much power in the PMO: It all seems awfully familiar, doesn’t it?