Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor was late to her own funeral – instructions had been left that her casket should arrive “fashionably late” to the event and indeed was brought in 15 minutes later than officially scheduled. There is the perhaps apocryphal story of the soldiers who buried Genghis Khan were killed by other soldiers in order to keep the site a secret…and those soldiers were then killed to further protect the secret. At Monty Python star Graham Chapman’s live televised memorial, John Cleese’s eulogy contained the phrase “I’m glad the freeloading bastard is dead. I hope he fries”, in recognition of his friend’s love of causing a scene. Now these funerals are undoubtedly worthy of note but what are some of the more memorable funerals in film and television?
Spoiler Alert – spoilers ahead for Andor, Bojack Horseman, Face/Off, Death of Stalin, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Darjeeling Limited.
Andor – “Rix Road”
The funeral of Maarva Carassi in Andor is an astonishing scene. A pillar of her local community people have turned out in droves, carrying out the customs of the area, including the deceased’s ashes being turned into a brick to be used in a building. However, the funeral is not without incident, with a holographic Maarva delivering a stirring call to action against the Empire. When an Imperial officer tries to turn off the projector another character hits him with a brick – the brick made from Maarva. Yes, at her funeral she instigated a riot and her ashes were used to beat the tar out of the henchmen of a totalitarian state.
Funeral rating 5 out of 5 bricks made of ashes
Bojack Horseman – “Free Churro”
This is an episode of the animated comedy show Bojack Horseman, the entire episode of which is dedicated solely to Bojack’s eulogy to his mother at her funeral. Now, to those not familiar with the show Bojack and his mother didn’t get along. The flashbacks throughout the show impart the horror she put him through as a child, constant cruelty, belittling and criticism. The episode title comes from a story Bojack tells at the eulogy that on his way to the funeral he got a free churro from a drive-through when he said his mother had died when they asked him how he was. Bojack doesn’t hold back in his eulogy, describing his mother’s flaws, his own, and so much of the awfulness of their relationship.
Funeral Rating 4 out of 5 free churros
An odd film of dubious artistic merits but it does have a classic John Woo style shoot out with doves, slow motion and all-around ridiculousness. It is hard to overstate the absolute sheer spectacular oddity of this scene, a film famous for encouraging Nicholas Cage to go Peak Weird Nicholas Cage and then throwing elaborately choreographed gun battles into the mix. There are shots of doves flying around paintings of the Virgin Mary while slow motion bullets erupt from guns. It wouldn’t be a sombre respectful funeral but it would be memorable.
Funeral Rating 2 out of 5 slow-motion flocks of doves
There are several funerals and memorials in Anderson’s films. There is the funeral of Royal Tenenbaum that ends The Royal Tenenbaums, with his tombstone given the epitaph “saving his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship” – which is not at all how he died. Or Monsieur Gustave going to pay his respects to Dowager Countess Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis in The Grand Budapest Hotel, congratulating her on her appearance despite being dead. Perhaps the most memorable is the funeral scene in The Darjeeling Limited. Three brothers have set off across India to find their mother and on the way witness a river accident where a child dies (they manage to save the others). The family ask the brothers to attend the funeral, which they do, which gives one of the great Anderson music moments, Strangers by The Kinks playing as they walk towards the funeral. Then the film cuts to the brothers attending the funeral of their father – or failing to, desperate to drive their father’s beloved car to the funeral the three brothers descend on the garage where it is being fixed, in a state of some agitation.
Funeral Rating – 3 out of 5 Symmetrical Funerals
Death of Stalin
Unsurprisingly this film features the lying in state and funeral of Joseph Stalin, and a surreal experience it is too. Whilst mourners walk past in droves the various senior members of the government form an honour guard around the dictator’s body and just bicker and plot. They argue about bishops and religion but as none of them are facing each other to talk, who ordered what is utterly lost in the confusion? The plot against Beria, the head of the KGB, is finalised while they’re literally carrying Stalin’s coffin.
Funeral Rating – 4 out of 5 communist dictators lying in state (but don’t want to congratulate Stalin so 0).
Also Read: The Unique Style of Wes Anderson