Dir: Gaelle Hardy, Agnes LeJeune | Belgium Doc 74′
Real people share their innermost thoughts in confronting death in this humanistic and affecting film about euthanasia from Belgian co-directors Gaelle Hardy and Agnes Lejeune,
In a wise and compassionate move, the Belgian government Wisely has legalised euthanasia. And the results are truly enlightening. No longer fearing physical pain and emotional anguish, a weight is lifted being those suffering endless trauma allowing them to end their lives with peace and dignity. The mentally fragile or seriously ill often feel a burden on their relatives, and are no longer valued in society. Now they can quietly take control and slip away in security and comfort.
In a consulting room in a public hospital in Belgium. Dr Francois Damas reflects on the wider concerns of his patients: both men and women, often accompanied by a relative. Most of them are seriously ill, but not all. Madame Vinciane Bonsignore just feels tired of living and is sick of being told to ‘get on with it’, describing her life like ‘a house with poor foundations’. Now she just wants to end it all. And we feel for her and so does Dr Damas, although he advises her to talk to her son. The trauma of assisted death has a major impact of those left behind, but most of the friends and relatives seen here seem acquiescent. In the case of terminal illness, they only want the best for those concerned. There is a perception that society no longer values the aged and infirm and this impacts on their ability to bear their suffering, often making it worse.
But one patient, Ziegfried Pohl attending with his favourite nephew, Michel Purage, has actually changed his mind about dying, having gradually come to terms with the shock of his wife’s death after 60 years of marriage. But for Michel Lombard the gruelling nature of his terminal illness means death will come as a welcome relief, and his wife Agnes Ries is fully supportive of his decision. Off camera we share the tranquility of his final moments looking out on the pleasant countryside from his hospital room as the family say their final farewells.
A round table discussion amongst the specialised medical team allows us privileged access to professional debate and discussion. The overriding message here is of compassion and understanding. As far as circumstances and the law allow, these patients want to choose their death, and are able to go ahead after frank and intensely authentic consultations.
Hardy and Lejeune direct with extreme sensitivity avoiding sensationalism. One of the most affecting scenes sees Dr Damas dissolve in tears when visiting the home of Sylvie Guerin whose young daughter Clara Dupont decided to end her own life after suffering from cancer, gently describing the reasoning behind the decision. How comforting to know the date of your own death, particularly for those who have no one left to share their lives with. This must be the ultimate in self-determination. MT
WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL | 2021