Mira Jargil: Turn out the Light

They kiss and embrace. I watch through the window, out in the yard. It’s a ritual. Indeed, it’s love, the terminal behaviour of a marriage in an erotics of thrift. They undress. The camera tracks him. He brushes his teeth. They meet in bed, say goodnight. Loving to polite. The last night. The old place.


TURN OUT THE LIGHT – and how little it takes to make a film

(translation: Glen Garner)

Everything is very matter of fact. The first shot is of a king-sized bed (I later understand it’s the conjugal bed) with two comforters, two pillows. Everything is very neat and clean and airedout.The shot makes that clear. Then we see him. He is of the older generation, the kind that used to alwayswear patterned “Icelandic” sweaters. He still does. He’s wearing one now. That’s no coincidence. Nothing is. He’s busy packing a box, and I understand. He writes a label with a marker and sticks it on: “Ruth’s sewing kit”. I sense his compassion beneath his irritability, which is palpable already in the second shot. He pants with the effort, the first sound in the film.

She sighs with a different kind of effort. This is a bit later. They are both making an effort, in different ways. As they are different. His resigned planning and her confused surrender come together already in this first sound. She stands in the backlight from the adjoining room.

The first dialogue consists of three sentences that peter out without completing any statement. The sentences are unrelated anyway. I sense that from their tone of voice.

He’s lying on the sofa, clearly a familiar position. He makes plans, economising his strength. She ploughs on. Cannot, dares not, let go of physical action. She keeps voicing her non-stop worrying. What about the wall clock? There’s no room. There’s less wall space in the new place.

I get the situation. I now know what I suspected, what the upheaval involves. A move from big to small, from a full life to a scaled-down existence, from joy to resignation. What could have been a new beginning is really an end. “This is the last meal in Traneholmen”, he says over dinner, with true gallows humour. An age, no, life itself, this moment, is over. In the address, in the name of a place, lies an entire culture, as is confirmed to me by the architecture that stands out more clearly as the rooms are stripped down – Sachlichkeit, half a century old, keeping sentimentality at bay.

They have no energy left over to make this last meal special. He has beer with his food. She drinks milk. For dessert, oranges that are dry from sitting around too long. “It’s better than nothing,” a crucial sentence goes. People get thrifty. The film, itself very thrifty, shows what thrift looks like.

They kiss and embrace. I watch through the window, out in the yard. It’s a ritual. Indeed, it’s love, the terminal behaviour of a marriage in an erotics of thrift. They undress. The camera tracks him. He brushes his teeth. They meet in bed, say goodnight. Loving to polite. The last night. The old place.


Daylight sets up the endgame. The sheets are going into black trash bags. Now the bed is empty. I see the mattresses. They are neat and clean. Everything is orderly. They sit at the breakfast table, same places, same camera angle as at dinner. She worries about the movers again, a recurring worry. Whether to feed them, offer them beer, coffee. He cuts off her housewife’s routine, adamantly intervening this time. He protects her.

The movers are busy. She sits in the nearly empty living room. Silence. The bed has been dismantled. He stands in the nearly empty living room. Together they stand in the nearly empty living room. Silence.


Mira Jargil’s film portrays these final 24 hours in eight minutes. A short sequence of minimal scenes, each scene with minimal content. Or so it appears. A series of existential dramas is set in motion and followed through. In parallel. A drama of external events: packing, eating, sleeping, eating, moving, saying goodbye. Two dramas of inner experiences and deliberations, which I know the film is projecting into the characters. His: great weariness. The realities and undeniableness of old age meet economizing and planning and careful routine, both in actions and emotions. Resignation is his outline. Hers: effervescent confusion in practical situations, as her mind repeatedly, absentmindedly, turns to the world outside, and a subsequent lack of attention to their life situation.

Together, these two unlike characters live through their shared drama, she worrying about everything around them, he worrying about her. So many existential things at work, so little equipment – scenographically, cinematically, textually, musically. Mira Jargil’s filmis a study in how little it takes.The film is a choreography of termination, and describes the inevitable conclusion to which drama and life itself lead – dynamically, though at a declining pace, even hesitantly.

Mira Jargil: Det sidste døgn (Turn Out the Light), DK 2005, 8 mins. Mira Jargil is director of the month in FILMKLUB FOF, Randers. Turn Out the Light was her first film.

Born 1981. Mira Jargil graduated from the National Film School of Denmark this year, 2011, with the documentary ‘The Time We Have’ about her grandparents Ruth and Arne who where married for 67 years. Now Ruth is dying, and Arne must depart with the love of his life. Her debut ‘Turn Out the Light’ from 2005 was selected at several film festivals including IDFA Silverwolf competition. In 2007 she finalized her second film ‘Going for Goal – The Homeless Worldcup’ about a different kind of street soccer, triumphs and disappointments, shatered hopes and living dreams. In 2010 she made a film in Beirut ‘Grace’ about a female taxi driver who drives her pink taxi at night and sleeps during the day. She dreams about an ordinary life with husband and children, but her pink taxi must only pick up women. (From cphdox.dk/doxlab)

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Allan Berg Nielsen
Allan Berg Nielsen

Allan Berg Nielsen started the first documentary cinema in Randers, Denmark way back in the 1970’es. He did so at the museum, where he was employed. He got the (16mm) films from the collection of the National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral). He organised a film festival in his home city, became a member of the Board of Directors of the Film Board, started to write about films in diverse magazines, were a juror at several festivals and wrote television critiques in the local newspaper. From 1998-2003 Allan Berg was documentary film consultant (commissioning editor) at The Danish Film Institute, a continuation of the Film Board. Since then free lance consultant in documentary matters.


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