NEAR DEATH is a film about the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital. The film is concerned with how people face death. More specifically the film presents the complex interrelationships among patients, families, doctors, nurses, hospital staff and religious advisors as they confront the personal, ethical, medical, psychological, religious and legal issues involved in making decisions about whether or not to give life-sustaining treatment to dying patients.
This documentary is, quite simply, the most powerful dose of medical reality ever administered by the tube.
–Harry F. Waters, Newsweek
These are the unforgettably sobering sights and sounds of ‘NEAR DEATH’, Frederick Wiseman’s great, fearless and monumental six-hour documentary chronicling the workings of the medical intensive care unit at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. They are the sorts of images that become grimly commonplace during the course of a film that is less a viewing experience than a total immersion. It isn’t the running time that makes ‘NEAR DEATH’ so overwhelming; it’s the subject itself. But at this length, the film has time to carry its audience from an initially raw emotional response to a calmer consideration of the difficult issues raised here, and finally on to some sort of resolution.
–Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Educationalincludes public performance rights
released 1989, 358 minutes
Major funding for this film was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.