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What a ‘good death’ can look like, in the quiet company of a compassionate stranger

‘When I can’t do things for someone else, I simply become unhappy,’ says Loes Prakke, waiting outside the front door of a small house late one evening. She rings, enters and introduces herself to Joop, an elderly man who is sitting up in bed and clearly sick. She tells him she’ll be staying through the night, so that Joop’s loved one, Ria, can get some rest. After acknowledging his hardship, she offers to spend some time chatting so they might get to know one another a bit.

The third volunteer to watch over Joop in his illness, Loes’s warm presence is a simple yet deeply meaningful gift to the couple – a reassurance that Joop will be cared for and comfortable during this final phase of his life. In her short documentary The Final Nights, the Dutch director Reneé van der Ven matches the gentle presence of her subject with her filmmaking, capturing Loes’s extraordinary gift for compassion with a respectful observational style. In chronicling Loes and Joop’s nights together, the film quietly reflects on the meaning of a ‘good death’, as well as the power of human connection in its many distinct forms.

25 May 2020

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