Movies to save and share.

bunny.jpgNo, it’s not a top ten list of my favorite movies (although I did do that once already), but it is a list of movies that either I have seen on the subject of death or keep intending to buy. You may recognize one or two, and maybe you have one of your own to share?

Gates of Heaven (1978) documentary about the pet cemetery business has got to be on the top of my list. Of course, it has pets in it right? But don’t just take my word for it, it was recently reviewed on NPR and it sounds just lovely. I haven’t seen it yet but it sounds like a keeper so it’s on my next amazon splurge.

After spending some time in Japan, the movie Afterlife (1998) hit me in places both familiar and unfamiliar. If you had just ONE memory to keep, which one would it be? A very hard question to answer for someone otherwise focused on capturing personal histories. The style of this movie is absolutely beautiful. Very poetic mixure of east and west.

A classic probably most have seen but still holds up is The Loved One (1965). A very black comedy and I love the tag line, “The motion picture with something to offend everyone.” Seeing this movie and the related classic, Harold and Maude (1971) in my youth probably most affected the way I see funerals today and why I think having a sense of humor about it all is the most poignent approach to death I can think of.

And along those lines is the curious The Young and the Dead (2000). Another well done documentary about the death business and the changing roles of cemeteries. You don’t know whether to smile or cringe when confronted with so much nostalgia and that actually encapsulates the feelings most people have about how they’ll be remembered.

The Hours (2002) was one of those movies that had me pushed way back in my seat in the theatre and had me exhausted by the end. It deals with depression and suicide as an end to life from the lives of three different women in three different ages. Powerful stuff and not all that easy to watch but these actresses are all so outstanding it is like having your own out of body experience. For me the exchanges between Ed Harris and Meryl Streep will remain long after the film was over.

Although I haven’t seen it and it did get bad reviews I’m going to list it here anyway and see if anyone else has any opinions. The Fountain (2006) was supposed to deal with the themes of death and spirituality. Seems that people either love it or hate it so I’ll have to see it when it comes out on DVD which should be soon. From what I’ve read if you can try not to be too literal you’ll probably enjoy it.

And then there’s the stuff that’s online. Here is one for kids (and adults) written by a grief counselor and done in computer animation called “Bunny” that handles the subject matter well and is being used to introduce end of life concepts to children and in college level death and dying courses. (Seven mins.) Tom Waits voice at the end is just perfect.

I made a few of you sniffle with this other music video off YouTube from DCFC called “I will follow you into the dark.” It’s a keeper that just couldn’t be left out. Bunnies must be some after world totem animal. All that following them down rabbit holes all our lives must be the reason.



  1. I have three favorite “death” movies. Two are very similar in scope: “The Sixth Sense” and “The Others”. Oh, I can hear you now, saying, ‘Those aren’t DEATH movies; those are GHOST stories.” But I feel that both of these movies depict a realistic view of what life-after-death is like. What’s it like? By God, it’s a lot like being alive! In both of these films (and I hate to be the spoiler if you haven’t seen one or both) the people who are supposed to be “dead” don’t even realize it, and continue to “live” oblivious to the fact that they’re supposed to be dead! HURRAH! That’s the way I want to be dead, when I do become dead. And that’s the way I truly believe the afterlife feels: you simply continue as-you-were, except that you’ve left the heavy overcoat of your physical body behind. I don’t think there’s going to be trumpets blowing at the gates of heaven, or any sudden arrival of omni-knowledge, or any Big Guy waiting to pass judgement on whether you were a Good Person or a Bad Person. I believe we just continue, and continue, and continue. During life, we make decisions and choices and come and go where we please; why should death be any different? Why would there be one set of rules for one place and a different set of rules for the other place? What would be the purpose and point of THAT?

    The other movie about death I recommend is Robin Williams’ “What Dreams May Come”. Here also life-after-death is shown as a thriving world of creation where inhabitants choose their own place — even those who live in spiritual poverty and the stagnation of mental squalor and conceptual numbness do so because that is their choice; they are free to choose anew any time, just as we can always change our minds – and change our lives – here on earth. In the movie, the ‘dead’ husband is trying to convince his ‘dead’ wife to change her mind, and change her circumstances. She thinks she is being punished for her sins, yet she is only punishing herself. I shout “Bravo!” for this film because I am so fed up with the traditional religious view of death as being “If you’re good, you get to go to heaven, and if you’re bad, you have to go to hell.” I never understood why the God of the Bible and most religions, who is supposed to be all-loving, would dole out eternal punishment for transitory sin anyway. That never seemed fair to me, and I ain’t a-gonna bow my knee down in worship to any such unfair god.

    Now, anyone want to talk about death books?

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