Wouldn’t it be great to be young again, yet retain all the knowledge you have accumulated over the years? Palimpsest, which receives its UK premier in competition at London’s Raindance Film Festival, wants to know what you would do with your new-found youth.
The unusual word palimpsest is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as describing something which has “… been reused or altered while still retaining traces of its earlier form”.
Armed with that information, the opening few scenes of Finnish director Hanna Västinsalo begin to make a little more sense.
Juhani (Leo Sjöman / Antti Virmavirta) and Tellu (Riitta Havukainen / Krista Kosonen) are senior citizens who, for different reasons, take part in a trial programme of gene therapy and find themselves de-aging and becoming more like their youthful selves. For one of them, it’s an opportunity to seize missed chances, and to try to put right some of the wrong decisions made. Not just having one’s life over again, but doing so with the knowledge and wisdom gained over the past decades. For the other, the traumas of youth prove too much to relive, and the same mistakes appear to be made again. One wants to forget youth, one wants to make the most of a second chance.
The difference between Juhani and Tellu’s responses is really interesting, and Palimpsest presents the viewer with exactly this predicament – what would you do in that situation; seize the day or seize a bottle? How would relationships with friends and family change? And how young would you actually want to become?
One of the strengths of the film is that it avoids giving too much attention to the scientific component in favour of focusing attention on the human element. Palimpsest is not glossy science fiction (even though the viewer is asked to accept the initial premise that rejuvenation is possible in this world), but stresses that such medical advances will not be without consequences. It asks if we are ready to accept these consequences, and what our lives would be like thereafter.
A gently told and thought-provoking human drama.