Production: France/Belgium, 1981
Director: Jean-Pol Ferbus, Dominique Garny & Thierry Zeno
A documentary that examines the burial and disposal of dead bodies according to differing customs and circumstances. In sharp contrast to American practices, where the deceased are eviscerated, drained and then sewn up to be covered in make-up by morticians, peasants in Thailand often leave the corpse untreated for several days, communing with the dead before burial. By the time the body is put in the ground, it is swollen beyond recognition, and in an advanced state of putrefaction if not liquefaction. Other scenes compare the high-pressure incinerators of Western crematoriums with slow, often partial Third World cremations on top of burning tyres. Pet cemeteries, a chaotic funeral in Korea, Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, and cryonic suspension are also covered. The film also has interviews with people in the death industry – coffin salesmen, morgue attendants – and even veers into “snuff” territory with the inclusion of a roadside execution in South America. A man is shot through the back of the head, and then kicked into a shallow grave while still drawing his last breath.
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