Friday Funeral Films: Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms

Aug 16, 2013 | 0 comments

Dr. David Kessler’s 2010 book Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms shares the personal stories of medical and hospice professionals who witness patient’s deaths. Some of the dying see remarkable visions, some speak of going on a trip, and others see people crowding the room. It’s a common phenomenon that often does not get discussed.

Hollywood films provide a concrete way of looking at this deathbed phenomenon and open the door to discussing mortality issues. Through film, we can see fantastic visions, go on trips, and greet the crowds that receive those as they leave this physical plane of existence.

This coming Tuesday, August 20 at 1:30 p.m., Gail Rubin presents Hollywood’s Visions of Dying: Trips and Crowded Rooms at the New Mexico Conference on Aging at the Isleta Resort and Casino south of Albuquerque.

These are the films with scenes featured in this presentation:

Defending Your LifeDefending Your Life (PG rated comedy, 1991)

Yuppie Daniel Miller is killed in a car accident and goes to Judgment City, a waiting room for the afterlife. His transition shows an interesting trip. During the day, he must prove in a courtroom-style process that he successfully overcame his fears. At night, he falls in love with Julia, the only other young person in town. Nights are a time of hedonistic pleasure, since you can eat all you want without getting fat.

Six Feet Under (MA-TV rated HBO TV series 2001-2005 – mature audiences)

This drama series takes a darkly comical look at members of the dysfunctional Fisher family that runs an independent funeral home in Los Angeles. At the end of the series, the elder son Nate dies of a brain hemorrhage. The depiction of his transition is both a vision and a trip.

Big Fish (PG-13, 2003)

In this adventure/drama/fantasy, a son tries to learn more about his dying father. His father has always told tall tales that the son never believed were true. As the father is dying, the son is drawn into telling the last story of his father’s life and recognizing the truth of his tales. The father’s transition shows all three: visions, trips and huge crowds.

Heaven Can Wait (PG, 1978)Heaven Can Wait

In this comedy/fantasy/romance, Joe Pendleton is a quarterback preparing to lead his team to the Super Bowl when he is almost killed in an accident. An overanxious angel plucks him to heaven only to discover that he wasn’t ready to die, and that his body has been cremated. A new body must be found so he can live out his destiny. Another interesting look at visions and trips.

This is an update of the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which featured a boxer instead of a football player. Director Warren Beatty originally wanted to feature Muhammad Ali as the boxer, but Ali wasn’t available for the filming dates. Beatty, who could play football, cast himself as the lead and had the story re-written accordingly.

A Good Goodbye