This was a fascinating documentary made by leading American feature documentary maker Ric Burns about the famous American neurologist who made his name by writing a voluminous number of books about different neurological conditions with such catchy titles as ‘The Man who mistook his wife for a hat’.
What made his books stand out was that he went into the cases in depth and with great lucidity and empathy. Here were people experiencing the world in a very different way from the norm, and Sacks takes us deeply into their world in a very real and yet poetic way.
Sacks was a proudly Jewish man. The last scene of the film sees him toasting L’chaim (To Life) to a group of friends gathered around him, with him knowing that he had only a few weeks to live, as his cancer had returned, What was particularly moving was that with his glass of wine he directly toasted the camera, telling us all to live life to the full.
Sacks lived much of his life without a partner, a solitary man. He was a gay man, much to the chagrin of his mother who told him that she wished that he had never been born. It was only in the last year of his life that he found a partner.
There are many Sacks quotes that one can take from this film. This is my favourite, dealing with individuality.
“When a person dies, there is nobody quite like them. People cannot be replaced. A person leaves holes that cannot be filled. It is the genetic and neural fate of every person to be a unique human being, to find his or her own life, to die his or her own death.”
‘Oliver Sacks : His Own Life’ will release in cinemas on Thursday December 3, 2020.
Sydney Arts Guide has five in-season double passes courtesy of Madman Films to give away. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with Oliver Sacks Promotion in the subject heading and your postal address in the body of your email. Winners will be advised by email.
Featured image: Oliver Sacks. Pic Bill Hayes