“At the tender age of 7 years, Catholicism, with its heaven and hell, took footing in my daily life. It was an important period, where I learned that God, like a thief, could come at any time and take us away…That’s when my negotiations with him began. A few hours after the evening prayer, laying on my bed slightly insomniac, I made the deal of my life. ‘Please God, let me live until I am twenty and I promise not to...’. Every night, frightened by the prospect of dying, I repeated this ritual in the greatest of secrecy.
Years went by and death was out the window. I was too busy living my life. That’s what I thought anyways. But she caught up to me by way of successive losses and a particularly
Today, through this film, I revisit ‘this childhood monster’, now a mighty taboo in our society.”
In this road movie for the soul, the director, a healthy lucid woman, questions death through encounters with individuals who each have developed an intimate knowledge of death, therefore enhancing their presence to the world. During her quest, she asks questions that concern us all. What is death? Can it be learned? Questions that too few speak of, but that everyone thinks about.
In this feature filmed in Quebec, Switzerland, Spain and the United States, discussion without any restraints is on the menu. Popular storyteller Michel Faubert, like a publicist, tries to revisit death’s image. On the other hand, Françoise Moquin, a palliative care nurse for many years, while suffering from an aggressive cancer, gives us a moving testimony on her vulnerability to her upcoming death.
Violette Daneau chooses to explore the different possibilities of becoming familiar with death by enrolling in the workshop “A Year to Live”, during which, along with other participants, she ponders on her past. She continues this intimate journey in Switzerland, taking part in more festive rituals with Andre Melly, for whom death is a daily reality. He has been refining alcohol and cheese since his wedding day ... for his own funeral. She also shares with Bernard Crettaz, a sociologist and anthropologist, by participating in a Mortal Cafe, a concept he created to bring people together in a bistro so that they can speak freely about life, death and mourning.
Back in Quebec, she focuses on the religious aspect of death. Do our beliefs help us to accept death? She meets Father Jean Patry, chaplain to the Bordeaux prison, an individual torn between God and death.
Is death the end of the soul? According to the atheist Michel Doré, the soul does not exist. For Benoît Lacroix, an almost hundred-year-old Dominican theologian, “the fear of death is instinctive and transcends religions ... ". Violette Daneau’s quest will also lead her to Spain, where believers driven by faith lay in coffins during a religious procession. Despite their faith, fear is present.
How do we deal with this fear? Yves Quenneville, a psychiatrist specializing in palliative care, considers death as a wild beast. According to him, solitude is what needs to be tamed ... Fleet Maull, a former United States prisoner, who became an end of life companion while incarcerated, talks about those who die in custody.
Throughout the film, symbolic scenes punctuate testimonials and poetically enrich the themes, such as paintings evoking the last moments of the dying. Same as, men, women, and children, walking on a tightrope stretched above the city illustrate the delicate balance between life and death. A sculptor, Horta Van Hoye, takes us in her delicate and fabulous universe made of paper to tell us about the vulnerability and insecurity of the body doomed to dissolution.
Violette Daneau’s journey ends with her own-death ritual. Despite her reluctance, she participates in the last workshop by Elizabeth Knox on funeral dressing, where she learns of the importance of taking care of the dead.
During her quest, the director is not only confronted with her own fears but also with the death of one her brothers and of two of her friends. Against all odds, she begins to revisit her life. Maybe death leads us only to the important trails of our life? In wanting to make a film about death, Violette Daneau made a film about life. Let’s talk about death!