Terry Prachett: choosing to die


At some point, we will all die. Death, therefore, is inevitable. However, the aspect of death is a challenging theme to focus on, whether writing or producing the film. Despite this, it is important to have a deeper meaning of death and explore it in-depth by exploring all possible approaches to understanding the phenomenon. For this reason, death has become a habitual theme in all forms of art be it in film, paintings and other related art forms. While the rationale for the choice of Terry Prachett: Choosing to Die is to explore the concept of death more, the author argues that it is for the same reason that Charlie Russell documented the documentary while Terry Prachett participate in its conceptualization and actualization.

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The film, Terry Prachett: Choosing to Die, focuses on understanding the idea of assisted death. Just like other themes stresses the importance of awareness on the part of the creator, the theme of death provided an incentive to the filmmaker when creating this film. One particular scene helps in understanding the approach that the filmmaker used when actualization this project in that the particular scene reveals the theme’s sensitivity and the ethical issues revolving around the theme. In particular, the scene between the 42nd and 49th minute forms the bulk of this analysis. In this scene, Prachett withdraws from Smeley’s evaluation to talk with Dr Preisig concerning his personal position to the point where Smeley returns with his wife for the concluding moment.

Throughout the film, Prachett explores the approaches in which he would wish to face his death and the best manner in which the procedures would work. In the minutes pointed out above, the viewer understands Prachett’s point of view towards the veracity of Dignitas rules as well as his own health situation. In the conclusive remarks with Dr Preisig, the viewer is informed about the principle of responsibility and accountability to own actions with an individual being ready to accept the consequences of the decisions that they made. From a filmmaking perspective, the director acclimatizes with the existing space and situation. In this case, the interview is fashioned with camera close-ups to the individual’s face as well as the movements of the camera helping acclimatize the director to the existing space and circumstances. In the ensuing scene, Prachett acknowledge is seen in a studio consisting of different filmmaking elements that include a backlight and voice-overs that deliver a message of uncertainty and in a corresponding measure the consciousness of something shifting in his mind.

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From a film theory perspective, the documentary is appropriate for TV transmission, which makes it lose some critical creative elements if the documentary was independently supported without any outside input on what to edit and what to retain in the film, which is the case for most shows made for TV (Corner, 2008). In this case, an independent production and creation of the documentary could have shown the director adopting a resilient lateral with the film making thought in an approach that is both more idiosyncratic and rhythmical, which would have meet the objectives of the documentary exquisitely. Nonetheless, the film requires the viewer to look at the issues raised through their mind and not use preconceived concepts in order to understand the true story on the fragility of life and approaches in which situations and circumstances change based on our insights.

The film could be viewed as observational. This assessment is based on the filmmaker’s position of hiding behind the camera virtually throughout the entire film. The moment that the filmmaker positions himself centrally in the documentary is the instance before Peter dies, when he simply reflects about his current circumstances. The documentary is observational since it captures situations at the subject’s actual homes, real spaces and settings while it also aptly captures the moment and raises profound questions and issues that it explores, which is journalism (Nichols, 2010). The film also uses cameras as an opening to the world based on the handling, especially during the conversation with Dr Preisig.

Despite being observed, there are certain scenes incorporated in the film that enhance the reflective mode of the viewers. Such include the studio moment where Prachett is being reflective, as well as during the trip going to Dignitas. In these scenes, the film could be portrayed as a construction. Some of the creative choices that the creator used, such as the music selected for a particular scene, the lightning used, the mix of sounds used, the shot selected to compose the film and the montage are understandable to the viewer. Nonetheless, nothing appears to influence the viewer’s point of view, in a dystopian manner, with the opposite happening in that it influences the visualization of Prachett as having a mind that is troubled.

The director and producer appear to have faced their share of ethical dilemmas. Despite suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Prachett proceeds to take the journey of exploring his death and the manner in which he would want to die. In a way, the ethical issue is resulting from the establishment of a relationship with subjects, with Prachett planning to use the information by capturing it on camera for consumption as well as for producing a TV documentary. Moreover, while Prachett’s wife did not want to appear on the documentary, she features persistently in a nonappearance manner, which could raise ethical issues related to the film. In regard to the production, there were different emergency responses and decisions that raise ethical issues. Although death is inevitable, it is common knowledge that discussions about the concepts are always debatable. In relation to the element of assisted death, debate on its characteristics has been intense, with a wide chasm created among its proponents and opponents (Coggon, 2010). By its very nature, ethical issues have clouded the issue of assisted death. When focusing on this issue on TV, therefore, considerations on how to approach the theme, its portrayal and considerations for both subjects and audience becomes significant with a focus on the ethical issues. Hence, the producer faced some of these ethical issues when creating the film.

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  1. Coggon, J. 2010. Assisted-dying and the context of debate: “medical law” versus “end-of-life law.” Medical Law Review, 18(4), pp. 541–563.
  2. Corner, J. 2008. ‘Documentary studies’: Dimensions of transition and continuity. In: T. Austin and W. de Jong, ed., Rethinking documentary: New perspectives, new practices. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers, pp.13-28.
  3. Nichols, B. 2010. Introduction to documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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