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DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

The diagnosis that he had only weeks to live seemed to disturb my partner’s grandfather less than it did those that loved him. The family was paralyzed, while Wiley’s self-directed course took a somewhat Kafkaesque direction. He began to organize his funeral; he chose a coffin; he bought a gravestone; he selected the plot that would serve as his final resting place. He even requested quotes from hotels for accommodation for the guests attending his funeral. The situation was shocking, and at the same time fascinating, as Wiley constructed his own image of the immanent departure. That image burned itself into my mind – his not saying goodbye but bidding farewell. His last moments, and the first of his absence, have yet to release their hold on me.

In my subsequent research for the film THE LAST CHAPTER, I began to work in a hospice as an orderly, and was able to quickly gain the trust of both the patients and employees there. My eventual protagonist, Branko Stefanec, was present from my first day. He had arrived several months earlier, and was already well settled into the routines and surroundings of the hospice. Because of his exceptionally long stay there, it had become like a second home to him. Before long, we had developed a trusting relationship, and after three months as an orderly, I began principal photography for my film.

In my months at the hospice, I learned that though people may die alone, family members work to accompany their loved ones along the path as far as possible. The experience of witnessing this process, both outside of the hospice and in palliative care, taught me something quite opposite to the general perception of death in Western society, namely that our gaze should be averted, for the dying to be »left in peace.« I came to question this behavior, which might normally be called piety. Just as the nurses and volunteers in the hospice challenge this attitude in their work, so do I in my film, and encourage likewise of the film’s audience. THE LAST CHAPTER offers an experience to counter the general neglect of a person’s final days, and the experience of venturing onto a territory unknown to us all.

It is death that renders all of us the same in life. Death seems coupled with birth as the only common denominators in our collective existence. THE LAST CHAPTER was and is for me a confrontation with life. I, along with whatever willing viewers, will survey unblinkingly that which awaits us. I aim to transport the viewer into a space that can support a positive view of the embarkment and dispatch despite the accompanying sadness. The ethos of the film shares with Bertold Brecht that, »Man is only truly dead when no one thinks of him.«

Cinema is about life. In this instance, though death probes to be tragic, we also see the positive in the act of a wishing good passage. The farewell prepares for separation, but leaves remains- the memory of images, phrases and the visible invisible of emotion.

 

 

 

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