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Related: fear - horror - life - macabre - murder - necrophilia - serial killer - suicide - Thanatos

Varieties: death of the avant-garde

Contrast: life

Three Ages of the Woman and the Death (1510) Hans Baldung Grien (1484 - 1545)

Dead Lovers (1528) Matthias Grünewald

La Calavera Catrina (before 1913) - Jose Guadalupe Posada, frequently dubbed in English as the female dandy [Mar 2005]

Sex [...]

Birth, sex (most importantly orgasm or petit mort) and death. Three phenomena that few would disagree are the three most extreme experiences known to humankind. They are interwoven. Three experiences so extreme we lose control of the ego [and our bodies], we touch archetypeal elements. --Adèle Olivia Gladwell in Circles of Sex and Death.

Death of the Author (1968) - Roland Barthes

In his 1968 essay "The Death of the Author," Barthes made a strong, polemical argument against the centrality of the figure of the author in literary study. (Michel Foucault's later article "What is an Author?" responded to Barthes's polemic with an analysis of the social and literary "author-function.") --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Barthes, Roland. 1968. "La mort de l'auteur" (The death of the author). Manteia, vol. 5. Translated by Stephen Heath in Image, Music, Text (1977) - Roland Barthes [Amazon US].

Death and sex

Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomenon, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than the ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness - pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one's consciousness, for death itself." --Susan Sontag in the Pornographic Imagination via Styles of Radical Will p. 57, Picador USA

Faces of Death

Mondo cinema's fascination with death reached its zenith with a series of videos called Faces Of Death (1979), mind-numbingly relentless montages of executions, war atrocities, and fatal accidents. In 1995, a mondo film became legally available in Britain for the first time with the release of Executions, a video compiling footage of state executions from around the world. The makers of Executions (David Herman, Arun Kumar, and David Monaghan) stressed that their aim was to highlight the barbarity of capital punishment, though many commentators disputed their sincerity. --Matthew Hunt via http://www.matthewhunt.com/censorship.html

Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) - Michael Lesy

Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) - Michael Lesy [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Library Journal
As the title suggests, this is a truly strange book. Published in 1973, it is essentially a collection of photos taken in Black River Falls, WI, by Charles Van Schaik between 1890 and 1910. The subject matter ranges from children in coffins, to farm animals, to family portraits of some of the grimmest-looking people imaginable; the photos are accompanied by snippets from newspapers. The whole package seems to confirm that the good old days were actually awful. Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --via Amazon.com

Wisconsin Death Trip is a non-fiction book by Michael Lesy, first published in 1973. It has been adapted into a film.

The book is based on a collection of late 19th century photographs from Jackson County, Wisconsin, mostly in the town of Black River Falls, and local news reports from the same period. It emphasizes the harsh aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of crime, disease, mental illness, and urbanization.

The film was directed by James Marsh and released in 2000. In a docudrama style, it combined reenactments of some of the events described in the book with a voiceover narration by Ian Holm. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin_Death_Trip [Aug 2005]

see also: photography - USA - 1973


  1. Deathwatch aka Mort en direct, La (1980) - Bertrand Tavernier
    Roddy has a camera implanted in his brain. He is then hired by a television producer to film a documentary of terminally ill Katherine, without her knowledge. His footage will then be run on the popular TV series, "Death Watch"...

  2. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) - Mike Figgis [Amazon.com]
    One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1995, this wrenchingly sad but extraordinarily moving drama provides an authentic, superbly acted portrait of two people whose lives intersect just as they've reached their lowest depths of despair. Ben (Nicolas Cage, in an Oscar-winning performance) is a former movie executive who's lost his wife and family in a sea of alcoholic self-destruction. He's come to Las Vegas literally to drink himself to death, and that's when he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a prostitute who falls in love with him--and he with her--despite their mutual dead-end existence. They accept each other as they are, with no attempts by one to change the other, and this unconditional love turns Leaving Las Vegas into a somber yet quietly beautiful love story. Earning Oscar nominations for Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Figgis, from John O'Brien's novel) and Best Actress (Shue), the film may strike some as relentlessly bleak and glacially paced, but attentive viewers will readily discover the richness of these tragic characters and the exceptional performances that bring them to life. (In a sad echo of his own fiction, novelist John O'Brien committed suicide while this film was in production.) The DVD features uncut, unrated footage that was not included in the film's theatrical release. --Jeff Shannon for amazon.com

  3. Dead Man (1995) - Jim Jarmusch [Amazon.com]
    Death is life's only certainty, and at the same time its greatest mystery. For Bill Blake, the journey of DEAD MAN represents life. For Nobody, the journey is a continuing ceremony whose purpose is to deliver Blake back to the spirit-level of the world. To him, Blake's spirit has been misplaced and somehow returned to the physical realm. Nobody's non-western perspective that life is an unending cycle is essential to the story of DEAD MAN. -- Jim Jarmusch

  4. Death Race 2000 (1975) - Paul Bartel [Amazon.com]
    Oh great American multitude and sports fans everywhere have I got a movie for you: Paul Bartel's 1975 cheap-o satire Death Race 2000. The national and celebrated sport in the year 2000 is the transcontinental death race where racers compete not only for speed, but for points too. For every pedestrian hit, points are earned, depending on age of course. And of course it's nothing like the year 2000 but it makes for a great flick. Frankenstein, Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, Calamity Jane, Matilda the Hun, and Nero the Hero are the five racers vying for points and place. Stallone is a standout as the villain. Hilarious stuff takes place throughout the race, from euthanasia day at the geriatric hospital to the "French" air attacks. The best lines have got to be: "Is that a grenade?" "No, a hand grenade." This Roger Corman production has become a cult favorite, rightfully so, and one of the best films of the seventies. Backlash007 for imdb.com


  1. Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film (1995) - David Kerekes [Amazon US]
    A captivating read...Creation's most accomplished film publication so far. This study on the way death has been treated on film is cleverly structured, well researched and lucidly written. It comprehensively covers films made as fiction - e.g. "Peeping Tom", "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" - films purporting to be real - e.g. "Faces of Death" series - and material that is all too real, such as car-crashes, autopsy films and news footage. --amazon.com

    Included is a radical critique of feature films which have incorporated a „snuff“ element; a comprehensive history of „Mondo“ movies and „shockumentaries“; analysis of the validity or otherwise of supposedly real-life „snuff“ footage, and its links with certain individuals and organisations; a summary of other real deaths captured on film suchas live-TV suicides, executions, news-reel footage etc; and also a comprehensive filmography. The whole book is profusely illustrated with rare and extraordinary photographs from both cinema, documentary and real life.

  2. Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook (1996) - Jack Huddleston, Sean Tejaratchi (Editor), Katherine Dunn [Amazon.com]
    Warning: this sad, powerful, grotesque collection of black-and-white photos of mostly dead, often naked, human beings is not for the easily disturbed. The introductory text by Katherine Dunn (author of Geek Love) helps give a context to the macabre scrapbook, and the handwritten captions display irony and sometimes humor; but this is no antiquarian's sentimental portrait of the past. This book documents butchery and brutality, horrible disease and mental illness, suicide and murder. And as Dunn observes, the eye of the beholder is not innocent: "The old cop, like the old con, tries to trick us into forgiveness and complicity. By witnessing he has participated, by understanding he is culpable. And his real purpose is to disguise the truth--that he started out terrified and ended up liking it, fascinated, an aficionado." --Amazon.com

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