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  You are in: Home > Cultural & Social Studies > Visions of Aging  

Visions of Aging
Images of the Elderly in Film

Amir Cohen-Shalev

Amir Cohen-Shalev is a Ph.D graduate of the University of Toronto (1985). He has since taught courses in life span creativity and human development, art in old age and motion picture as educational text, at the universities of Haifa and Tel Aviv, and Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. He is the author of Both Worlds at Once: Art in Old Age (University Press of America, 2002).


The interface of old age and cinema provides a fascinating yet uncharted territory in the humanities and social sciences. Two central perspectives are explored: movies on old age by old filmmakers; and movies on old age by younger artists. The first perspective focuses on the cinematic representation of aging from within, whereas the second examines the ways aging is viewed from the outside. The distinction is based on the schism between the phenomenology of aging and its social representation: The one hinges on intrinsic qualities of “old age style” or “late style”; the second addresses attitudes towards old age in general as well as towards aging artists and the reception (or rejection) of their late films.

The author combines these general perspectives as it shifts between text and context, beginning with aging from the outside in order to introduce the semantics and pragmatics of the context (reception and filmmaking stylistic change, midlife images of old age), and continuing into the world of aging as cinematically represented from within, by old filmmakers, an often idiosyncratic, metaphysical and sometimes unapproachable world.

By providing a roadmap that charts previous scholarly paths of inquiry, this book offers a panoramic view of the direction of this new field of cinematic gerontology, and is essential reading for students and scholars of cinema, humanistic gerontology, psychology of art, and the sociology of old age and popular culture.


1 Wild Strawberries: Life Review as a Fiction of Middle Age
2 Tragically Incomplete: creativity as a Lasting Resource in Providence
3 She’s Been Away: The Female Life-Review as a Relational Project
4 An End in Sight: Old Age as Present Continuous in A Woman’s Tale
5 A Lie for a Lie: Secrets in the Family and the Resilience of Old Age Since Otar Left
6 Old Age and Inter-Generational family conflict in Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and Saraband
7 Poetry of Unadulterated Imagination: The Late Style of Akira Kurosawa
8 Claude Sautet’s Winter of Discontent
9 Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard: Depictions of Old age in Waking Ned Devine and Autumn Spring Conclusion


“Cohen-Shalev’s Vision of Aging will excite all those interested in age studies, the social and psychological sciences, and film studies. While accessible to the general reader, the book delves into late style theory most persuasively and will make anyone wish to revisit movies by major film-makers, whose experience of aging transformed and inspired a new creativity.” Professor Anne M. Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida, co-editor of the Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts; and co-editor with Janice Rossen of Aging and Gender in Literature: Studies in Creativity

“I want to see those movies again! And I want to think again about the ways in which Visions of Aging on the big and the little screen are variously enriching, distorting, and illuminating the latter days of our lives. Thank you, Amir Cohen-Shalev! You have contributed a fresh and invigorating perspective.” Robert Kastenbaum, editor of the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, and author of On Our Way: The Final Passage Through Life and Death

“In a carefully selected series of powerful depictions, Cohen-Shalev enlists cinematic milestones in the annals of the film industry to get to grips with the discontents and anxieties aroused by the inevitable, yet invisible, presence of the reality of penultimate death. This insight study of the cinematic imagery of old age is a much needed contribution to any critical reading of contemporary culture: It reframes the mid-life triangular intercourse between film makers, critics and audiences to reveal a hitherto unseen magnificent palette of the unharmonious yet exciting view in winter.” Professor Haim Hazan, Tel Aviv University, author of The Limbo People: A Study of the Constitution of the Time Universe among the Aged


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
192 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
September 2008; paperback, January 2012
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£45.00 / $67.50
Paperback Price:
£22.50 / $ 34.95

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