Don’t fear the reaper. That’s the philosophy that the delightful documentary Undertaker for Life! imparts as it introduces audiences to a series a funeral home directors. The film, which is now available for free streaming at NFB.ca, shares the perspectives of these undertakers as they tell director Georges Hannan about what drives them to give people their final send-offs. The film has an uncanny sense of humour as the undertakers can’t help but laugh in the face of death. Their unique outlooks make for an accessible consideration of the transition between life and death, and the many deep questions about what happens in between.
“I don’t laugh about death,” Hannan told POV during an interview at Hot Docs. “I laugh about our relationship to death. They have the weirdest jokes, as you can imagine…It’s their way of dealing with all of this. For me, it’s a way of dealing with a subject. I just have to take people by the hand and bring them through the process of watching this film and listening to this message.”
While death is the premise of the film, the conversations are ultimately all about life. Considering religion, time, community, happiness and all of life’s other big questions, Undertaker for Life! gleans words of wisdom from the morticians as they keep their funeral homes shipshape for their next guest. The doc more than earns its exclamation point.