37°: Manuel’s Farewell

Der Spiegel

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The media (or so goes the standard reproach) likes to exploit tragedy. The more gruesome the event, the more garish the tone. This documentary by Nicola Graef and Susanne Brand, however, testifies to the contrary. The authors succeed in narrating the story of Manuel — a 29-year-old theology student who committed suicide by breathing in car exhaust fumes — in all of its unfathomable sadness, and with no trace of sensationalism. Apparently, Manuel suffered from depression, yet such medical terminology is of little use to the bereaved parents of this suicide victim. Even now, his father, a Catholic religious instructor, his mother, and Manuel’s student friends are confronted with a riddle: how could this universally loved young man conceal his psychic torments for such a long time, revealing them only when it was too late, in a six page suicide note? And what to do with one’s rage against the deceased, with the “ultimate aggression” referred to by a friend of Manuel’s? And how will his mother cope, still hoping, three years after the event, to put an end to her sorrow? This little film depicts the lives of those left behind in all of its devastation, yet with no trace of obtrusiveness.

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