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This review is from: A Certain Kind of Death (DVD)
A Certain Kind of Death (Grover Babock and Blue Hadaegh, 2003)
What happens to those who die without family to claim them-- transients, homeless, those who live alone without family? Babcock and Hadaegh show us in A Certain Kind of Death, and the answer is relentlessly depressing, if fascinating.
The filmmakers follow a few days in the life of various government departments as the body of transient is dealt with-- the attempt to track down any surviving family, the cremation, the disposition of the man's effects. All is handled in a cold, clinical manner, with some of those involved keeping themselves sane in any way they know how.
The sheer mudanity of the situation provides, paradoxically, all the drama this unassuming little documentary needs to keep the viewer watching. The dead man is handled like just another case, one of hundreds-- which, of course, is exactly what he is to a coroner's office in a large city. The film wends to its inevitable conclusion, no surprising twists, no family suddenly popping out of the woodwork, just an old man, dead, no longer a part of society, slowly disappearing from the memories of everyone on the planet-- except that this one won't. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as applied to film; when you observe something, it changes the dynamic. And here is the film's great irony; that this particular transient, by dint of being the subject of this documentary, is not likely to be forgotten.
None of the usual adjectives seems to apply here. You can't call the film lovely, of course. If anything, it is its own particular breed of ugliness. And yet, of course, you'll keep watching it. This is a film you should see, not for its entertainment value, but because it shows you something about the world we live in that you don't know about, perhaps never thought to ask. It is knowledge for the sake of knowledge, and there's far too little of that in the film industry these days. *** ˝