“Day is Done” by Director Thomas Imbach Screens at the Chicago Film Festival

Near the end of the Swiss documentary (German subtitles) by Thomas Imbach entitled “Day Is Done” a voice on Thomas’ answering machine says, “I’m good and sick of the answering machine!” By that point in this 111 minute interminable exercise in making something out of nothing, so was I.

The film-maker shot 15 years of 35 mm film from one vantage point overlooking the back of the Zurich train station. We never “see” much of Thomas, but we hear from his girlfriend, who becomes the mother of his child, Noah, during that 15 year period. And, when she gives birth, he is too busy with his artistic pursuits to be there for her. He also is too busy to ever answer phone calls from collaborators, debtors, relatives or friends.

This documentary is a lot like the realization of what Jerry Seinfeld described as “a show about nothing.” Only, in Seinfeld’s case, the “nothing” was funny. In Thomas Imbach’s case, the nothing is beautifully photographed, but, much like “The Tree of Life,” beautiful images do not, alone a picture worth watching make.

Interspersed with the lovely images of planes and birds and clouds and snow and fires and a possible motorcycle accident, we hear interminable reports on the weather, his parents’ health, and remarkably muted grousing from the poor woman who is left alone to give birth and care for their son, Noah. At one point, she says, “You haven’t got a clue, because you just leave. He (Noah) wakes up screaming. I just can’t take it any more. I feel like I’m suffocating, choking.”

And what Thomas is doing to the woman who is the mother of his child (Monika) is just the tip of the iceberg, since he is also neglecting his son, Noah, who constantly calls and identifies himself in a childishly charming manner.

Then there are other girls who call with names other than Monika. And songs, which are almost all in English, strangely enough. One lyric goes like this: “Being in love means you are completely broken. And put back together in one piece that was yours in beating on your lover’s breast. She says the same thing about hers.” Thomas seems to have complaints along these lines: “You did what you did to me. Now it’s history.” Thomas has some nerve in telling Monika that she is in the wrong. Her messages are invariably restrained and, while she sounds pissed off when she says things like, “You said you would take him. I’d like to know what the story is this morning,” she never comes off as shrill.

One creditor calls and says it is just a reminder that Thomas still owes them 13,176.25. Yikes! Another time, he receives word that his father is discontinuing chemo and, later, that his father has been admitted to St. Anne Hospital. And there is the news that he has won third prize at a festival for one of his films.

While the film’s images were very beautiful and fit the moods of the documentary, the entire experience seemed to go on for 15 years. It seemed interminable. I looked at my cell phone 4 times to see if I was going to miss my next film. All films require the audience to make mental leaps and fill in some blanks of exposition, but this film and “The Tree of Life” are the two worst I’ve ever seen at making the audience introduce its own idea of what the “plot” or the “conflict” were or are. Not my cup of tea.

It appears that, at the end of the film when little Noah is 15, Thomas is reunited with his wife and son, because we hear the lyrics, “Just when I thought you were gone, you came back. You are smooth. You are rough. You are more than enough.”

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