1989 / 358m - USA
Near Death poster


November 16, 2020


My first Wiseman. He's a lauded documentary maker and after seeing Near Death it's not hard to see why he garnered so much critical acclaim. Wiseman directs with respect and patience, keeping his distance and not really forcing himself upon his subjects. It's a good match for the topic at hand.

Wiseman follows a crew of doctors and nurses tending to patients who are nearing the end of their lives. Tough conversations with the patients and their family members are documented in full, debriefs and more practical meetings between the staff weren't off limits for Wiseman either. He alternates between the two for nearly six hours.

While I understand the reason to limit the editing, six hours really is a bit excessive. The choice to shoot in black and white also feels a little cheap. There's quite a bit of repetition as the doctors spend their time explaining the situation to their clients to the best of their abilities, but I lost interest after a while. It's a shame, as the subject itself was pretty interesting and the form worked very well.