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“To Dust” Dreaming about Death






Review by John Delia

After a loved one dies most often it’s hard to come to terms with the loss. To Dust deals with the sorrow, psychological acceptance of the death and finally an acceptance of sorts depending on how the audience perceives the journey. How the character in the film goes about it however, involves a dark comedy of how one man approached the reality of it all. This is not a true story, but the biology behind it can be very unnerving for some people.

Shmuel (Geza Rohrig), a very religious Jewish man, has lost his wife to cancer. He is taking it very badly and with two pre-teen sons, his Rabbi, family and friends are very concerned about Shmuel. Nightmares of him seeing the decaying of her body in the ground have lead him to visit Albert (Matthew Broderick), a local community college Professor of Biology. While you would think this is a good choice, Albert knows very little about death itself and has only heard about how the body transitions to dust after death.

Geza Rohrig as Shmuel and Matthew Broderick as Albert in TO DUST

Shmuel presses Albert to help him to accept his wife’s death even if they have to experiment themselves on a pig. Director and co-writer Shawn Snyder takes a lot of liberties with the Jewish faith putting Shmuel though some way odd ideas on how the experiment would even help the man. One could say its tongue in cheek comedy, but there’s a point between fiction and reality where hallowed ground should not be trodden.

The acting is quirky, but it’s what you want to see in a film like To Dust. Geza Rohrig plays the very religious widower who can’t get a grip on his wife’s death. Shmuel feels there must be more meaning and reason than to just put the body six feet under the ground. In depicting him, Rohrig has to show mannerisms of the Jewish faith. During mourning period as Shmuel, he nails the psychologically disturbed character and even adds some odd tendencies, like not taking no for an answer even if it upsets others. I do like his role playing, but I must admit it does get annoying at times, especially with the demands he puts on Albert.

Geza Rohrig as Shmuel and Matthew Broderick as Albert in TO DUST

It’s easy to also get bothered with Matthew Broderick’s character as well. He’s a professor in Biology, yet must have missed the classes on death and decay of bodies. When Shmuel comes to him with the odd request of helping him to abate the nightmares he has about his wife who’s in the grave, Albert looks puzzled. Sure he should be questionable, but most of the reasons Albert feels he can’t help Shmuel is because he knows nothing about the subject of cadaver decay. While it does make for come good comedy now and then, both characters carry out a lot of foolishness on the Jewish burial of the dead.

Geza Rohrig as Shmuel and Matthew Broderick as Albert in TO DUST

I do admit that I am not up on the subject myself, especially involving the Jewish faith when it comes to a person who has died. So I looked it up on the internet to find out what the steps were to bury a Jewish loved one. In the beginning of the film we witness the cleansing of the body and clothing her with a white shroud. It’s actually a very solemn and interesting rite of passage as all of the funerals I have attended had the body in clothing. Within 24 to 48 hours depending on the available of next of kin, the body must be buried. The rest can be found on the internet with longer explanation.

To Dust has been rated R by the MPAA for language and some disturbing images. The cut of the film I saw bleeped out all the swear words, but other showings may not so be aware of this. The disturbing images are of dead and decaying bodies and may leave lasting thoughts.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A fairly good film with a lot of silliness. (3 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Geza Rohrig, Matthew Broderick, Sammy Volt
Directed and co-written by: Shawn Snyder
Genre: Drama, Dark Comedy
MPAA Rating: R for language and some disturbing images
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Opening Date: March 15, 2019
Distributed by: Good Deed Entertainment
Released in: Standard

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