IDFA Review: Intensive Life Unit

Kateřina Rusinová at work

In the ‘developed world’, life expectancy usually increases year on year. This is largely thanks to consistent advances in medical treatments, technology and healthcare services. While, on the face of it, this is a great human success, there are also consequences. Although we may live to greater and greater ages, that doesn’t mean that our quality of life remains the same. Our bodies still deteriorate and degenerate, as do our minds.

Ondřej Kopecký and Kateřina Rusinová are pioneers of palliative care at the General University Hospital in Prague. With a wealth of modern treatments and technologies at their disposal, they can prolong life and make it more comfortable but they cannot cheat death. The work they do is not unique but most hospitals in Europe don’t have specialist palliative care departments on site. Adéla Komrzý’s new documentary, Intensive Life Unit, follows them at work.

Death is the final taboo. A subject avoided in polite company. It is also not the theme of Intensive Life Unit. Kopecký and Rusinová are focused on life. Of providing their patients with the best standard of living they can have for their final days. It’s an incredibly empathetic and thoughtful piece of filmmaking. Intensive Life Unit highlights the important and difficult work of medical professionals in delivering sensitive and appropriate holistic end of life care.

Intensive Life Unit screens at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

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