A Certain Kind of Death
Top Customer Reviews
Disturbing, graceful, and deep.
The movie follows the LA Coroners when they find people who've died without family.
What might seem gross is actually fascinating: It's a complex, unexpected and sometimes heartbreaking process. So that I don't give it away, let's just say that the city takes care of everything, down to the last detail.
But the film is much more than just what happens.
The filmmakers find a raw beauty in the most disturbing images. More than anything, watching the fate of people who have no one makes you reflect on your own life.
Be prepared for images you will never forget.
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. *** ½
The stories of these forgotten lives are fascinating. The filmmakers focus on the authorities' efforts to uncover the story of one man who died alone; we learn that he was a gay man who gave his own burial plot to his partner when the partner died from AIDS. These stories cause the viewer to think about uncomfortable, important questions; during the film I found myself vowing to treat those in my life better, so that I would not end up alone and forgotten in my later years.
The last half of the film isn't quite as interesting. The bureaucratic minutiae involved in these cases are not that interesting. I realize that the filmmakers are making that point that once we die we become statistics to the bureaucracies that deal with our deaths. That does not mean, unfortunately, that the details are engaging. I wish the filmmakers had recognized that the power in their film came from the stories of the deceased, unwanted individuals.
I recommend A Certain Kind of Death for its unique subject matter and powerful moments. I wish, however, that the filmmakers could have sustained the momentum that they built at the beginning of the film.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Everyone has to see this film, at least once! You can cover your eyes if it gets too intense. It is so real. Read morePublished on March 9, 2013 by Denise
Check this out! It does not disappoint. Fascinating look into the world of the un mourned and what happens, in reality, when no one is there to claim your body. Haunting. Read morePublished on March 3, 2012 by CK
Disturbing, creepy, sad documentary on how the body and personal effects of those who die without kin are handled by the coroner's office. Read morePublished on August 4, 2011 by K. Gordon
About a year ago on the NPR show "This American Life" there was an episode called "Home Alone" Nov 14, 2008 which dealt with the topic of people who die without any next of kin. Read morePublished on October 18, 2009 by Ed
Where would contemporary documentaries be without the Michael Moore style of self-promotional agitprop, or without PBS's Burns Brothers' solemnly historical talking heads and... Read morePublished on September 5, 2008 by Cosmoetica
this is a very interestin & informative show. and it also show how they care about the people who have nothing. And what the caring people have to go through to get to the body's. Read morePublished on July 5, 2008 by true crime reader