Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, funky to funky — the inevitable physical promise of death.
The multibillion-dollar funeral business, with the help of reinforced concrete, steel, and embalming fluids, is dedicated to slowing down that return. A “green burial” strips all that away, using biodegradable materials in natural settings. That sounds simple and pure, but it’s a burial method that in our modern age lacks a proper infrastructure.
A Will for the Woods follows Clark Wang, who’s fighting a losing battle with lymphoma and who finds in local cemetery manager Dyanne Matzkevich a compassionate and willing partner in his quest for a green burial.
The documentary dutifully records Wang, his wife, Matzkevich, and others, as they consider the general appeal of green burial and the specifics of Wang’s. The subjects include Joe Sehee, the founder of the Green Burial Council, hard at work establishing green burial standards; there is much footage of his mobile calls and conference-room meetings.
While the film also captures many private, sometimes heartbreaking scenes, it takes a lot of time to make its simple point. In the end, its most alarming and forceful moments have nothing to do with whether or not Wang’s burial is green. It mattered to him that his body be returned to earth, to nurture the woods in the natural cycle of life.
But, to those who finally had to bury him, nothing mattered more than that Wang was finally, terribly, gone.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 13, 2014