Own Death

in 22nd Drama Short Film Festival

by István Szathmáry

Everyone has the right for his own death. A death with dignity, without any humiliation. In other words, everyone has the right to own a grave. In the bittersweet comedy of Eleonora Veninova, Fighting For Death (Borba Za Smrt), the main source of conflict is precisely this own grave.

In the film we witness the duel of two old men, both the last living inhabitants of their respective villages. With their death the memories, hopes, joys and sorrows of whole communities will disappear. However, there’s only one free grave left in the cemetery and it will belong to whoever passes away first. But passing away is not as easy as it seems. The film is about the moving and at the same time funny fight to prevent the other from dying first, told with ample humour and absurdity. The basic idea of the story is already brilliant: a struggle to win a race for death and to preserve the health of the opponent at all cost. Of course, there’s no other possible end to this desperate race than a happy end. The two men realise that their war had no point and that life can be beautiful even until the last moment. And if this is the case, why not spend that little time left in friendship, discussing the questions of life with each other. In the film of the Norwegian director Alexander Zwart, You’ve Made Your Bed Now Lie In It (Som ein reier sa ligg win), the grumpy protagonist is trying to bury himself in his own house after finding out about his future death from a fortune teller. Like in the previous film, a petty fight begins: the main goal of our hero for the rest of his life is to make sure that his brother does not inherit his home once he’s passed away. The end of this engagingly funny and absurd film leaves the viewer a bit disappointed but despite this the story is a rather entertaining exposition of human nature.

Chasing the dream of eternal life is as old as humanity itself. And what could be a stronger motivation to stay alive forever than the desire to be with the beloved one until the end of time. Kyro, the spectacular and technically convincing sci-fi by Christoph Heimer, which could even be a pilot for a longer TV series, also revolves around this question. The protagonist gets himself and his terminally ill partner hibernated in the hope of a reunion in the far future. However, it turns out that life is only a gift because we know it will end at some point. Despite the slightly banal message, the main merit of the film is its ability to present a heavy existentialist dilemma to a wide audience.

Edited by Steven Yates