For most of our marriage, especially before having children and after they left home, Kate and I have enjoyed movies. It was natural to include them among the variety of priorities on which we focused after her diagnosis. We found the best selection of movies at a local arts theater and have been members for many years. As Kate’s Alzheimer’s progressed, she was no longer able to follow a plot. At first, I thought that might be the end of movies for us. I discovered, however, that she could still enjoy some of them without understanding the plot at all. I was surprised but soon recognized what is obvious that there is more to a movie than a plot. Movies grab their audiences with a host of emotions that we experience directly by our senses of sight and hearing. We can enjoy the appeal of the characters, the beauty of the scenery, visible forms of humor, and music.
For Kate, enjoyment was heavily influenced by the nature of the characters and the seriousness or importance of the film’s focus. She liked upbeat movies with likeable characters. On the other hand, she liked more serious films like Darkest Hour. In that case, she was able to recognize the seriousness of war and its impact on the world. At the time, she also recognized the importance of Churchill. The whole tone of the movie appealed to her.
The last two movies that appealed to her were documentaries, RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor. We saw RBG twice and Neighbor four times. She had a strong positive feeling for each of them even though she didn’t remember them before the movies. In addition, she could sense they had led lives that had great impact.
Our moving going had already tapered off before those films. After that, I tried one or two movies without any success. She was confused and bored. I have been looking for what I thought would be the “right” movie since then. That occurred two weeks ago when I learned Pavarotti was playing. Kate has been especially drawn to opera in recent years. I decided to give it a try yesterday afternoon.
While we were at lunch, I told Kate that we would be going to a movie. I told her it was a documentary of Pavarotti. She didn’t remember him even when I told her a little about him. For the most part I was not surprised. She is forgetting most names. Why not Pavarotti’s? On the other hand, he does come up periodically in our conversation, especially in connection with some of the YouTube videos we watch in the evening. We have watched a few of his solo performances as well as those with The Three Tenors. I guess I had hoped that she might recognize the name. If she had, I would have taken that as a sign that she might have an interest in the movie. That didn’t happen.
Once the movie began, I was very optimistic. I could tell she was interested. There were a number of emotional moments during the film when she and I were both moved by the music. She held my hand and squeezed it tightly. She enjoyed his singing, but there were also times when she said, “You’re ‘gonna’ have to help me with this. I don’t understand.” She repeated that when the movie ended. Instead of getting up to leave, I talked with her briefly. I asked if she had liked it. She said, “I don’t know. I didn’t understand it.” I suggested that the important part was that she liked the music. That didn’t make any sense to her either. I found this interesting. I was trying to get her to rely on her intuitive abilities, and she was focusing on her deficit of rational abilities.
All-in-all I have to give Kate’s experience “mixed reviews.” I had hoped that she would leave with a good feeling about having gone, but she didn’t. By the time we reached the car, she didn’t remember seeing the movie. I probably won’t take her to another one. I’ll add this to the growing list of things that we are dropping from our lives.