A Necessary Death

A Necessary Death

On DVD: 
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Running Time: 
101 minutes

Life, it is said, is the stuff that happens in between the important moments. A Necessary Death is a lot like life. This documentary is a picture of what life is like on the road to ending it.

Gilbert is a student filmmaker, and he wants to make a movie. It is going to be his final thesis of sorts. But he’s had a very odd idea. He wants to find someone who has decided to kill themselves, for whatever reason they have, and document their life as they prepared and plan to commit suicide. He wants to follow them all the way through completion of the act. Meanwhile, another film student, who we only see once during the film, wants to document the making of Gilbert’s documentary. So that’s what this is, the documentary of the making of a documentary about a person who is going to end their life.

The movie opens with Gilbert getting a notice from craigslist that his ad, “Documentary filmmaker looking for suicidal individual to follow from first preparation to final act.”, has been taken down for violating the terms of service. The entire first act deals with the questions you probably already have. Is filming this legal? Will your usual crew actually help you? Who would volunteer to be the subject? Needless to say, it is legal as long as you don’t help or encourage the suicide, your friends will help you if you promise it will be done with respect, and you’ll get lots of volunteers. Through a series of interviews we get to see people who want to die for all sorts of reasons, some silly, some stupid, some heartbreaking, but one stands out as being almost justified. Matt has a brain tumor, inoperable, and is going to die anyway, however, he’d like to go out on his own terms and not in the way his medical condition is going to force him out.

The bulk of the rest of the film follows Gilbert and company following Matt as he sorts out the details, picks his method and decides the end of his life. There are a few twists and turns, but better are the simple moments, like meeting Matt’s mother, who doesn’t know he even has a brain tumor nor that he’s planning suicide. Ultimately though, the movie ends as you might expect, or perhaps a little differently than you expect, and you are left with a film about a film about a man planning to kill himself.

Oh, by the way, this is a faux documentary. It isn’t real. It feels real. It’s dull in the way that most documentaries are dull, but that just helps sell it, makes you believe it just might not be just a movie. But it is just a movie.

More fascinating than the film itself are the two commentary tracks. The first is with the writer/director of A Necessary Death Daniel Stamm. He gives good insight in the process of creating the film and the original ideas. The second track has the stars of the film, Gilbert and his crew and Matt. They provide excellent peeks into the filming process, that it was filmed over the course of several years, the difficulties that brought up - like changing hairstyles and keeping track of clothes & props. The DVD also contains some deleted scenes and trailers, but the commentary tracks are the real gems here.

I can’t really recommend A Necessary Death to anyone, and I can’t really say I enjoyed it - the movie was a terrible bore - but it was an interesting watch.


Review by Jason Pace
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