Monday, March 11, 2013

"Time of my Life" ("To Always"); film from Belgium looks at voluntary euthanasia

Time of My Life” (in Dutch, “Tot Altijd”, which translates as “To Always” or “Until Forever”), is a new film by Nic Bakthazar, available from Strand Releasing in DVD on March 19.
The film tells the true story of Mario Verstraete  (Koon de Graeve), a young politician in Belgium who developed a particularly aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, and fought to have euthanasia legalized in Belgium.  He would be the first to pass away (at age 40) under the new law in 2002.  The film is narrated from the omniscient viewpoint of friend Thomas (Geert Van Rampleberg). 
He seems like a young man when he has his first symptoms, spotty vision loss.  He becomes physically dependent fairly quickly, being struck by a car in one scene.  He visits a physical therapist who recommends SM sessions in the gay male community. 

It’s clear that the idea of a law like this is disturbing to many people, who see it as a slippery slope leading to a society that does not place value on the lives of the disabled.   One couple compare this story with that of Terri Schiavo in Florida in the United States. Of course, it also reminds one of the activism of Jack Kevorkian in the 1990s, which resulted in a prison sentence. 
The US National Library of Medicine at NIH has a story on the passing of Mario and the publicity it attracted here.

In my own life, I’ve seen MS develop in women much more often than men.  I remember a tearful moment in a church service in Dallas in the early 1980s when a lay minister announced she had it. 
The official site is here.
I watch the film as a private video on Vimeo available to screeners.  The film is shot in full wide screen 2.35:1. The film is quite long for “docudramas” of this type, running slightly over two hours.  
There is some nice classical music in the background, including Ponchielli, one of the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss, and the Schubert Unfinished.  The close of the film uses the quiet conclusion to the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms.  The very last memorial scene, outdoors in the Flemish countryside, is quite moving.
The film could be compared to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, reviewed Jan. 11, 2008, a French film about a man with locked-in syndrome.

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