A Necessary Death (2008) - SXSW


A while back I saw a very good (but still annoyingly unreleased) doco-style indie flick called S&Man. It was there that horror-lover JT Petty blurred the lines between fact and fiction, fandom and fanaticism, "backyard" horror and downright "abuse." You still can't get a copy of the DVD for yourself (yet), but this is a flick that plays games with a viewer's head ... but does so with a lot of craftiness and creativity.

I mention S&Man because I just saw a very chilling doco-style indie flick called A Necessary Death, and it succeeds for a lot of the same reasons that Mr. Petty's film does.

The story is unpleasantly simple: Three film students come up with a decidedly nasty idea for their final film project: They'll place ads looking for someone is who FULLY INTENT on committing suicide, and the plan is to follow that ill-fated person through the entire process. After interviewing a series of unacceptable candidates, our "documentarians" find themselves a viable option: A perfectly plain British guy who, unfortunately, is suffering from cancer and has only a few months to live.

So with full assurance that their "subject" is insistent upon a suicidal course of action, the three young filmmakers start to prepare their film. So on one hand we're looking at a 'documentary' film about the making of a documentary film. Only ... what's real, and what isn't? As our cancer-ridden "hero" makes his final preparations, we're privy to not only the sad truth of the case -- but we're also witness to the filmmakers' concerns, worries, second thoughts, etc., regarding the project. To say much more would ruin some of the film's best moments, but suffice to say that writer / director Daniel Stamm strikes a deft balance between the reality of docos and the magic of fiction.

A Necessary Death has a lot to say about the nature of documentary filmmaking. Part of it is the old "you cannot study a subject without influencing it" argument, but the director (and a small but strong cast) is smart enough to keep the human equation on equal footing with the more abstract concepts. Best of all, A Necessary Death is a thoroughly engrossing little experimental film that's also quite slyly entertaining, despite its rather unsavory subject matter.