Death causes us so much fear and confusion that we can hardly look it in the face. In our aseptic society, pain and suffering tend to be covered up, although it was not always like this. In fact until the late 20th century it was customary to photograph the dead in places all around the world, from the United States and Europe to Latin America. Something that today is rather unknown, had its reason for being. The representation of the deceased was a way to mitigate the sorrow for the death of a loved one. The documentary, ‘Mrs. Death‘, tries to give answers. Why has this practice fallen into disuse, and, furthermore, is now considered as something macabre and insensitive?
I have been obsessed with this question for a long time but when you talk about it with certain people, you realize that you are not the only person haunted by the thought of death. The turning point -in which something happens creatively- was the day I lived in first person how a woman secretly showed me an old picture of a dead baby admitting that she could not bear to hang it on the wall. After the painting a hidden photo appeared, revealing me the existence of an archive long forgotten and not understood.
Many people agree they have experienced a certain tension when they enquire about the origin of these photos. They are hard to find because they are usually hidden, broken or disposed of. In 2001, the famous film ‘The Others’ by Alejandro Amenábar showed these photos worldwide but I know that most people did not consider them real. On the other hand I belong to a generation where we have hardly seen a dead person, and I am fascinated by the fact that until about 40 years ago, it was normal to paint or photograph your deceased in Mallorca, Iceland or Mexico. At the same time, it interests me to know how private collectors have been able to give this type of photography an anthropological and aesthetic value and it amazes me that people still dare to photograph death carefully.
Title: Mrs. Death
Runtime: 61 min.
Screening format: DCP, APRS422, H264
Original language: Catalan, Spanish, English
Filming locations: Auray, Barcelona, Binissalem, Manacor, Madrid, New York, Palma, Pollença and València
Production year: 2020
Production Company: La Perifèrica produccions, The Fly Hunter
Co-produced by: IB3 Televisió de les Illes Balears
With the support of: À punt, Institut Estudis Baleàrics
Direction & screenplay: Sílvia Ventayol
Line producer: Núria Cano
Cinematographer: Jordi Pol
Color: Miguel Llorens
Sound design: Iván Martínez-Rufat (Godfader)
Graphics design: Luis Ozonas
Original music: Jaume Compte