This is a documentary short about a man—a junkie—who couldn’t die. It’s produced by The Current, directed by Julius Telmer. It’s a heavy topic. We don’t talk about death. Yet, it’ll happen to all of us.
Last year, the Copenhagen-based production-institute, The Current, gained viral momentum. Actor Ashton Kutcher shared their short piece, “Depression”, on his Twitter account. Eyes started to turn towards The Current’s work, not to mention their portfolio of skilled directors and writers.
I was asked to write the following piece to support the topic of “The Man Who Couldn’t Die.” I decided, instead, to focus on how we mourn death, and the taboo of suicide. The Current’s provocative 5-minute film is embedded after the piece.
In remote villages in Italy all the way to the cold mountains in the Middle East the mourners dress the color of death and chase the casket. The women reach their hands to the very limit of their bones and cry a burst of thorns. As if they want the heavens to hear their grief. I wonder if anyone is listening. And does it matter?
How we mourn differs from one place to the other. The heaven we gaze onto, and share our secrets, is the same but the ground beneath our feet dictate how we decide to mourn and how openly we mourn.
How we deal with suicide differs also. The pocket of the world, in which we live, color the words and the sentiment of the deceased. Suicide is a peculiar thing. It’s the loudest of all existential cries. The cry of taking ownership of your own death before the course of chance. That cry echoes deep into the hearts of the ones who are forced to identify the body of the victim. The ones who are forced to bury the body at the edge of a crowded chapel. And everyone at the funeral, the bar, the kitchen, wherever, will have the same train of thought racing through their head—regardless the culture—a thought that roars: “COWARD!” That’s the final legacy a suicide victim leaves behind. And unrightfully so. That thought, that very prejudice, prohibits us from understanding the condition that welcomes suicide. Unless you’ve walked through the fiery coal with your bare feet—like the victim did—you will never understand.
Death scares all of us. It’s the scare that will keep us up at night. But it’s also the scare that makes us feel more alive.
Life itself is not hard nor complicated. But the clinical structure of modern-day society—or whatever you choose to call it—do suffocate the lives of a silent few. Those who are tortured by the mere fact of living can’t voice their suffering because our collective culture of gratitude—the religiously tainted gratitude of celebrating life which is handed down to us by some divine entity—belittle our deepest fears: that existence might be pointless.
What is left for us to do in unison? How do we understand, or find, the silent few before it’s too late? My father wrote a poem some twenty-odd years ago, which I will recite:
If the sorrow was white
we would paint every building
with its color
but since the sorrow is black
we choose to hide it
in our most secret drawer
As with every poem you can read into it, what you please. But the underlying message is clear: no one deserves to suffer in silence. If we can’t—or don’t want to—hear the sufferer, we will never hear the final call.
Death scares all of us. It’s the scare that will keep us up at night. But it’s also the scare that makes us feel more alive. Maybe the Italian villagers have known it all along? Maybe that’s why they scream for everyone to hear?