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A Certain Kind of Death (2003)

  Directed by: Grover Babcock, Blue Hadaegh
Links: A Certain Kind of Death on the IMDb, Official site
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Fascinating" - a review by pearly

We're all going to die. Just think seriously enough about it for a while and you come back to this conclusion (or watch episode after episode of Six Feet Under like I've been doing recently, because they mention this fact in almost every one). Despite this fact, though, most of us humans are pretty uncomfortable with the whole death concept. There was a large message on screen before A Certain Kind of Death started, telling the audience in no uncertain terms that some scenes may offend some viewers. Death offends.

The certain kind of death referred to in the title of this documentary is the death that occurs when there is no nearest of kin, or a nearest of kin cannot be found. It follows the organisation needed to properly close off all aspects of a lone person's life following their death. These dead people leave only clues as to their lives, so there is quite a complicated logistical process in tying up their affairs.

I am not overly familiar with death (touch wood), but to the people portrayed in this documentary, it's an everyday affair. From the moment the bodies are discovered (often after having been dead for days undiscovered), through to closing off their file, each person talks candidly about their part in the process, as though it's something they do every single day (which, it is). Meanwhile, to me, it's all completely foreign, and brings up all kinds of different emotions.

A Certain Kind of Death traces this process from start to finish for three different people. One has organised a pre-need for himself (i.e. he's previously liaised with a funeral home about where he wants to be buried, etc. and has paid for the funeral in part), but the others are unknown. So, after the body has been taken to a mortuary, the person's belongings are perused to find clues as to their identity, and whether or not they have living relatives. In their documents, the staff hope to find details about any wishes, but this barely ever happens. The man with the pre-need is a very rare case, they say. Their assets are auctioned off to pay for the costs associated with all this research and organisation, and, after a set period of time, if no-one has come to claim the body, it is cremated, and after another set period of time, the ashes are buried in a common grave.

It is confronting viewing, but if you can get past all that, there is a matter of factness about it all. Sitting in an office, going through one of the dead men's belongings, a lady talks about how she uses the belongings to discover things she wants to know about the man. Is there a wallet with ID in it? Could there be photographs with names written on the back? A keyring pointing to a place the man might have frequented? That sort of thing. This is quite satisfying.

I found A Certain Kind of Death to be a really fascinating documentary. It deals with things that most people don't know much about, and if you don't have too weak of a stomach, it will probably tell you quite a few things you didn't know. If I didn't still believe that I was immune to death (I'm young! It couldn't possibly happen to me!), I would head out straight away to organise myself a pre-need. That's one thing I've learnt.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 13 Aug 2004

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