Title: Thanatopraxie: Der Letzte Weg

Also known as:
Thanatopraxie: The Last Way (English title)

Year: 2001

Genre: Documentary / Art House / Realism

Language: None

Runtime: 11 min

Director: Chris Caliman

Writer: N/A


An artistic and very detailed documentary about modern embalming.

Our thoughts:
Chris Caliman mailed me and asked me if I wanted to watch and review his documentary that he did in school a couple of years back, and I have to admit that I was expecting crap. This is the first request I've gotten and I thought there was no way it would be interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

"Thanatopraxie" is exactly my kind of documentary. It's a short 16mm black and white (you should know by now that I love black and white) documentary that shows everything they do when embalming, or so I think since I'm no expert in the subject. The mortician is very focused and starts the progress with injecting embalming chemicals into the "jugular veins" ("veins that bring deoxygenated blood from the head back to the heart", according to Wikipedia) after cutting a hole at the neck/throat-area. I'm not gonna get into detail about what they do, since you can find information on how embalming is performed pretty much anywhere on the net, and continue with what I think of it.

The documentary has a very obscene feel to it, but it never becomes disgusting and remains honorable to both the dead person and the business all the way through. It's clear that Chris Caliman didn't make this to upset or disgust people, but rather to show and teach. Something that adds to this is the lack of music and voices. We only hear the noises that comes from that room.

Chris worked the camera very well. He captures everything, but his angles are never bland or boring. One scene in particular comes to mind. When he films the body through the reflection in a window. Nothing special you might think, but things like these really help a documentary to stray away from boring me out.

Like always, this isn't for just anyone, but I will still recommend it to everyone. We're all human, and we should all take 11 minutes of our lives to see what'll happen after we're dead. A very, very, good documentary, even if nothing is explained.

Positive things:
- Chris Caliman thought this through before doing it. He could so easily have just stood still and film the embalming, but his skills behind the camera really turned this documentary into an experience.
- It is what it is, an embalming. Nothing else, and nothing else was needed.
- Black and white. Yummy yum-yum on black and white documentaries.
- No music or voices, just the calm noises of the room and the embalming.
Negative things:
- No narration. Yes, I know I said "No music or voices" as a good thing, but I still had no idea what they did and why.
- The censoring on the bodies face. Sometimes it's censored, sometimes it's not, and it's not really censoring very good when it's there.

Gore: 2/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 0/5
Effects: 0/5
Comedy: 0/5

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