The Ecstasy of Decay

Documentary shorts∙ 13min ∙ Video | 2011

A two-part documentary depicting the history and current state of the American funeral industry. Created in collaboration with Caitlin Doughty, an LA-based mortician, best selling author, and vlogger, known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral practices.

Part one is a verité doc that follows Caitlin on her daily duties at the crematory. Part two is an historical reenactment of development of the death industry from the 1600s to the present day. My first documentary film—and my first time inside a working crematory.

Screenings: Finalist, Smashbox Studios Face/Off Photo & Video Competition, USA; Don't You Have Docs? Festival, Melbourne, Australia. Featured on News Shooter and The Order of the Good Death. With support from The Order of The Good Death.

Part 1: Your Mortician

The Ecstasy of Decay no 1 was one of the first projects ever produced by the Order of the Good Death. In January 2011 I was working on a book of ideas for artistic death when a friend of mine, the filmmaker Angeline Gragasin, suggested that she film me while at work. From that simple idea, The Ecstasy of Decay film series was born.

The title, Ecstasy of Decay, was actually a concept I had had lying around for several years that Angeline thought made a provocative choice of name. The concept behind it is essentially that the human corpse is made to decay and decompose, and that self reflection on the gloriously unpredictable nature of bodily decay actually can create great joy in the living.

Part 2: The American Corpse

This second video is about the steady march of the dead human body out of American society. It has happened slowly. So slowly we hardly noticed our corpses are missing. When capitalism tiptoed in, families realized that there were people (i.e. “funeral professionals”) who could magically take away the literally and emotionally messy task of taking care of their dead bodies. In its first incarnation, this second video was a sort of random, rambling voiceover with funeral pictures from specific time periods.

Unfortunately, it was reading more “amateur Ken Burns death parody” than “next level deathinfo.” So Angeline, the filmmaker, had the fantastic idea of creating a series of fauxtographs (filmed pictures) representing different time periods. Thus, the video as you currently see it here was born. Let’s just say it involved a lot of time and free labor from people who were willing to have leeches glued to their face and nutella & cold cream smeared on them and terrifying BoPeep wigs put a’top their heads. Thanks also to Carl Sondrol who re-recorded my narration on fancy sound equipment.


💡 This project relates to The Animals. [2012]

All rights reserved © 2011—2018 Angeline Gragasin.