Bioethics in cinematographic representation
For several decades, hiding death has had to do with promoting a state of permanent optimism, appropriate to the atmosphere of consumption and confidence that sustains the economic and capitalist logic.
Nature, however, always ends up imposing itself. A microscopic virus can expose the entire narrative built to make us forget the fragility of bodies and the transience of existence.
It is very revealing to see how historically the bioethical debate around dignified death has been exposed in fiction. From “Who’s life is it anyway” based on the theatrical text by Brian Clark, to the more recent “Sea Inside” 2004 by Alejandro Amenabar or “Chronick” 2015 by Michael Franco, the debate is typically centred around groups whose will to die is understandable for their condition. Personally, I consider this reduction doubly dangerous and have tried to stay away from it. On the one hand, in my career I have worked with groups affected by serious ailments and very severe physical limitations, who, however, claim their full access to life. At the other extreme, in recent years we have seen cases such as that of Noa Pothoven, a physically healthy, but morally devastated, young woman who claims the right to assisted suicide.
Certainly the bioethical debate around dignified death cannot be reduced to a group whose death may be considered “logical”, “understandable” or even “desirable”. We know that the shadow of eugenics hovers over these considerations and we must therefore broach the issue boldly and broadly. That is what I have tried to suggest in the script of “Armugan”, consciously delving into territories that are difficult and uncomfortable to navigate instead of violating the poetics of a narrative that could easily take refuge in what is considered reasonable.
Despite this, “Armugan” does not pursue a one-way truth. The silent confrontation between “Armugan” and “Anchel” shows different ways of contemplating life, either as a cycle in permanent transformation, or a reality inscribed in the temporality of a body and a personal identity.
Indeed, there is a dimension that transcends the limits of science in this debate and it is precisely this territory that the character of Armugan defends against Anchel’s materialist position. For Armugan, the job of an end-of-life doula crystallizes “in that instant in which love conquers death”, while for Anchel “death is the cure for life”, (for a life condemned, I would add). The tension between these two positions is what projects and gives meaning to this film.