The Last Companion
The Last Companion is a short film (32 min) in which a British national (Anna being her pseudonym) recounts her experience of having accompanied a stranger (Jill), another Briton, to go to Switzerland to die. Anna is played by an actor in order to protect her identity, but the narrative is based entirely on the transcript of an interview with her.
Because of her ill health and disabilities, Jill chose to terminate her own life with the help of lifecircle in Basel. Although Jill was able to travel to Switzerland on her own, lifecircle required her to have a companion who could identify her body after she died. As she was unable to find a family member or friend willing to do so, lifecircle approached Anna for help because she had been known to them before.
The film is a monologue set in a room with a large bay window with Anna sitting by the window and the camera slowly zooming in to her face as the narrative unfolds. Anna’s account focuses on the three days she spent with Jill in Switzerland, the practicalities subsequent to Jill’s death, her impression of Jill as a person, and her reflection on the experience.
The story is a captivating one. Its power lies not only in what is narrated, but also in the untold and unknown, with the gaps in the story working like the negative space in a painting. While Anna’s account gives a vivid picture of Jill’s physical appearance and character, it also offers viewers room to conjure up their own image of Jill and her internal journey during the last days of her life. It is hoped that the film would trigger questions in the mind of the viewers, including questions about the human psychology involved and about the difficult issue of end of life choices.
Actor – Pene Herman-Smith
Cinematographer – Stuart Platt
Sound recordist & Adviser – Shantiketu
Director, Editor, Second Camera & Music – Lin Li
Facilitator – Larry Butler
Completed in 2019
The first screening of The Last Companion took place during the event End of Life Choices? on 29 April 2019 in the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow.