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May 11th, 2011 AARON MESH | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Documentaries About Death

movies.how-to-die-in-oregon_3727PROFILE IN COURAGE: Cody Curtis (right) in How to Die in Oregon. - IMAGE: Peter D. Richardson
     
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How to Die in Oregon

92  [ONE NIGHT ONLY, DIRECTOR ATTENDING] If one of the afflictions of human life is being the only animal that knows it’s going to die, it is some small consolation to choose the day and the hour. Portland director Peter D. Richardson’s expertly wrenching documentary shows Oregon’s Death With Dignity in its quiet rites; it opens and closes with the sound of a spoon clinking as it stirs Seconal into a glass. In between, the documentary examines the political echoes of the law, notes both the mercies and inequalities in its practice, and most centrally gives an intimate but not invasive account of the final months of Cody Curtis, a gorgeous, gentle 54-year-old Portland woman with inoperable liver cancer. How to Die in Oregon is devastating and eloquent, its title indicating not an instructional video, but a wish for a way we all might face the inevitable. Oregon Convention Center. 6:30 pm Wednesday, May 11. Richardson and family members featured in the documentary will answer questions after the screening.


Into Eternity

79  This Finnish documentary tonally suggests a conceptual horror movie and, sure enough, its subject is an ancient Lovecraftian abomination beyond reckoning—except it is contemporary, and we don’t know how to warn coming generations about it. “You are heading towards a place where you should never go,” intones Into Eternity director Michael Madsen as his camera creeps into a tunnel carved into bedrock. “What is there is dangerous and repulsive. Please turn around and never come back.” The place is Onkalo, a massive burial chamber being dug beneath Finland; what will be there are cannisters of nuclear waste, lethally radioactive for 100,000 years. The film could not be more timely, or timeless—this is a Cave of Dreams We Would Like to Forget—and though it could probably stand to be a fraction less histrionically grim, that might break the spell. Somehow, the eeriest scenes are of scientists trying to figure out what warning might keep some future Indiana Jones from tarrying or digging. An obelisk? A field of giant thorns? Munch’s The Scream? What symbol says “wrath of God,” anyway? Living Room Theaters.

 
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