Awaiting Death’s Arrival

The Sound of Insects (Peter Liechti, 2009)

To experience death and understand the transition that occurs is something of a nightmarish mystery to human beings. They wonder about it, while they are alive, but they dare not attempt to find out. The fascinating experimental documentary The Sound of Insects reveals one man’s brave and torturous attempt to examine the death of the human body through first-hand encounter through his day by day agonizing journal entries. This attempt was not for the sake of curiosity, as his entries clearly indicate his hopeless state and belief that ‘he no longer was needed by anybody in the world’, it was an attempt of self-enlightenment and possibly the most tragic attempt there-of. He was a nameless man, not known to anybody and with no family or friendly connections, who secluded himself in a hut in the middle of the woods and proceeded to commit suicide through self-imposed starvation.

The Sound of Insects is an experimental documentary, juxtaposing bleak imagery and a disturbingly haunting soundtrack with the narrator’s voice reading aloud the daily journal entries of the man. The combination of these elements made the film a strange mix between a Terrence Malick movie and a Maya Deren experimental picture… a not-so-easy-to-forget viewing experience indeed. The greatest achievement probably attained by the doc is that it literally lets us inside a man’s thoughts as he lay dying. Documentaries can usually only get so close to their subject by asking them questions and hopefully getting back a personable response. This however, was unfiltered, pure thought on camera, without the questions and it is rather difficult to sit through, listening to a man literally pour his heart out as he suffers with every breath depriving himself of food and simply waiting, day after day, to die and go to the next life. It is something which would shake the average viewer who most likely has not experienced death so close or so honest.


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