Unblinking and unsettling, “A Certain Kind of Death” lays bare a mysterious process that goes on all around us: What happens to people who die with no next of kin?
Filmmakers Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock present this dark milieu in surprisingly composed and beautiful scenes. We witness a variety of public employees handling the bodies, personal property and money of those who have died alone, each worker helping nudge the deceased into non-existence.
As each life is revealed to us, each is also drawn inevitably toward the same vanishing point. Crews haul away property, crypt workers prepare bodies for disposal. Appliances, furniture and personal knickknacks of the dead end up in a county warehouse, where auctioneers disperse them to strangers who know nothing of the prior owners.
Unexpected ironies and compelling imagery force us to ponder the question “What is death?” For the unmourned people we have come to know in the film, it is total erasure.
This is one of my favorite documentaries now having watched it twice and wanting more. It is extremely graphic, uncensored look at the entire process. The best part was seeing the bodies up close without any blur and hearing the candid and often unintentionally funny comments of workers.
There is a brilliant matter-of-factness about the presentation that perfectly suits the subject. I never understand why people insist on getting all philosophical or spiritual about death, why they seem to prefer it. This is much less complicated. Much more straightforward. A weird kind of relief in the procedure, the paperwork, the case numbers and files.
WARNING: When I said graphic I meant it. You will see fully nude, badly decomposed, corpses covered in blood, shit and maggots. Skin slippage, broken faces, grey moldy sunken flesh that comes off on plastic gloves in chunks.
... And if you had a difficult time reading that you probably shouldn't watch the film.