“Until the End”: choosing to die at home

14.12.2023 In their award-winning documentary, Oliver Slappnig and Claudia Michel provide impressive insights into the lives of people who care for their relatives at home until the end. The film raises awareness on the subject and create a basis for social discourse.

According to a 2017 study, more than two thirds of the Swiss population would like to die at home, but only 23% have their wish fulfilled. This was the starting point for Claudia Michel’s Compassionate City Lab project. The researcher and her team at BFH developed a series of measures to raise public awareness around the gap between reality and wishful thinking.

Death, a taboo made tangible

The project gave way to a touring exhibition and the documentary Until the End. “We want viewers to ask themselves how they would deal with their loved ones’ dying wishes,” says co-director Oliver Slappnig. With Claudia Michel and his camera, he met people who cared for dying relatives at home, and communal representatives and politicians who want to preserve the dignity of people who spend the end of their life at home.

Still aus dem Dokumentarfilm "Bis zuletztt": Alte Frau trinkt aus einer Kaffeetasse
Katherin Balsiger cares for her mother, who suffers from dementia, at home.

Clearly, the subject needed enough space and time. There is a dark side to dying at home, yet also a luminous one. As a filmmaker and graphic designer, Oliver Slappnig found ways and means to reflect these aspects: “I spent a long time looking for music that isn’t too bleak and that expresses a certain optimism.” A certain lightness was also required in the voice-over and the collected impressions.

It would be important to know how we can help in the first place. It is part of it all.

Oliver Slappnig
Oliver Slappnig

Like in many documentaries, the production team was blessed with good luck. During the shoot, they found fresh snow in the Kander valley, but also autumn colours, sun and fog near Bern. Despite the seriousness of the subject, they had to make sure that the intonation and the imagery would not be too oppressive, but rather neutral or even a bit bold.

Grafik zu gewünschten und tatsächlichen Sterbeorten in der Schweiz
The desired and actual places of death in Switzerland hardly match. Source: Palliative care population survey 2017.

A basis for social discourse

“I approached my task in a spirit of respect”, stresses Oliver Slappnig. Working on Until the End made him realise that we all have to look out when our relatives get older. “The subject has to be addressed in good time. And we have to be there when we are needed.” For him, this is the core message of the documentary. Like many others, he knows people who would like to spend the end of their lives at home.

You need a network to rely on.

Oliver Slappnig
Oliver Slappnig
Still aus dem Dokumentarfilm "Bis zuletzt": Friedhof Frutigen
We should not only deal with death in the cemetery.

Until the End captures the spirit of the times. It has received positive reviews and is regularly shown at related events. The film breaks through the wall of silence that surrounds death and addresses a subject that is both essential and part of the human condition. Until the End sets a basis for social discourse and raises the subject over and over again, especially in the context of the accompanying touring exhibition.

The documentary Until the End, by Oliver Slappnig and Claudia Michel, was shown at over a dozen film festivals in 2022 and 2023 and has won several awards.

Multiple awards

  • Liber Films International Festival, Best Short Documentary
  • International Gold Awards, Best Short Documentary
  • New York Movie Awards, Silver Award Short Documentary
  • 8 & Halfilm Awards, Best European Documentary
  • Vesuvius International Film Fest, Best Cinematographer
  • Vesuvius International Film Fest, Best Director
  • TMFF The Monthly Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Feel The Reel International Film Festival, Best Documentary
Filmplakat von "Bis zuletzt": Luftaufnahme von nebliger Vorstadt
Oliver Slappnig and Claudia Michel won several awards with their film project "Until the End".

Find out more