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Funerals in films

Latest research shows that more of us are willing to talk about death and specifically the type of funeral we’d like to have.  If you’re looking to challenge funeral norms, there’s no better place to find inspiration from than modern culture and how funerals in films are depicted.

Here’s our top pics of funeral scenes from films and how they question our preconceptions of the standard funeral:

Four Weddings and a Funeral – the power of poetry

The film that has to be at the top of any funeral in films clip list.  There are few in the audience for this rom com blockbuster who didn’t shed a tear when W H Auden’s ‘Stop The Clocks’ poem was read with such depth of feeling by John Hannah:

“He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.”

In this film a poem is chosen by a mourner to help to describe his pain and grief in losing a loved one, but poetry and prose can also be chosen to convey a message to those you have left behind, to provide comfort or even create levity.  Many people also choose to write their own poetry.  Just make sure you choose someone with anywhere near the oration skills of John Hannah to read it. You can listen to the poem and others here.

Love Actually and the Big Chill – choose a great song

The next two funerals in films show us how the right song can make or break a funeral.  In another of Richard Curtis’s blockbusters, Liam Neeson’s on-screen wife chooses the Bay City Rollers ‘Bye Bye Baby’ to put a smile on her family’s face after losing a loved one before their time and to encourage them to see her funeral as a celebration of her life.  In The Big Chill, a film that starts with a funeral, an organ rendition of the Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ raises smiles amongst the mourning friends.  Songs and music evoke strong emotions and can be a powerful way to personalise a service or convey a message to those attending.

Man on the Moon- film your own eulogy

Bringing to the big screen the life story of comedian Andy Kaufman, played by Jim Carrey, the funeral scene in Man on the Moon shows the message he filmed for his mourners and instructed be played at his funeral.  He provides them with advice on how to dwell on his death, what to value in life and leads them all in a sing-along.  All of us have the opportunity to be present at our funerals in more ways than one these days, if we have the time to prepare.

What We Did On Our Holidays – channel your inner Viking

As friends and family prepare for his 80th Birthday party, Billy Connolly plays a grandfather who dies suddenly on the beach whilst playing with his grandchildren.  Faced with a decision far greater than their years, the children decide to take his funeral into their own hands, rather than letting the adults choose something inappropriate and far too dull, and launch him – Viking style – into the sea.  What would happen if your grandchildren got to choose what your funeral was like?  What if you felt no obligations to do ‘the right’ thing by family and friends and did it your own way, what would you choose?

Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America – make it personal

The last film on our list is actually a film-length documentary and may not be as familiar as the others.  As a compassionate, yet entertaining, look at how different people in America choose to die, mourn and celebrate the lives of those they loved, it’s an absolute must-watch for funeral inspiration. It focuses on non-traditional end of life options such as green burials and ‘living wakes’ and shows two different ways of dispersing ashes – encasing them into a coral reef and shooting them into space on a rocket.