If there’s one thing we’ve learned incredibly well over the past century, it’s to love stuff. We ogle large screen televisions, establish expansive collections of fetishised objects, and treat iPhone releases like the second coming of Christ. It’s a damning indictment of an “evolved” society that has the capability to see, do, help, and give so much, but instead puts its attention on shiny new things.
I’m not immune to this; in fact, I’m a master of cognitive dissonance, having crafted countless arguments and rationalizations for what I purchase. “It’s an investment;” “I’ll do more for my health, as a result of this thing;” “It will be good for our kids.” Oh yeah, I’ve used every one of ‘em, and am currently in the process of generating more—in spite of being part of a blog that encourages simpler, more sustainable, living.
Some days, though, a massive invisible crowbar from the sky appears, and forces my eyes open. It’s at these moments that I see clearly and consider the fleeting nature of life, alongside the absurdity of our conspicuous consumption. This happened while watching Thomas and Erik Haemmerli’s hyper-personal documentary Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse—perhaps the most compelling argument I’ve ever witnessed for our love of things being a kind of illness.
The film begins with film director/journalist Thomas learning of his mother’s death. What would commonly be a devastating event in its own right, becomes outright grisly when he, and his brother, are forced to deal with the mess left by a rotting corpse. This situation becomes increasingly more emotionally complex as they sort through a mountain of debris left from their mother’s hoarding behavior—and are consequently forced to dissect their personal histories.
Latin Lovers, Nazi officers, Kofi Annan, are just part of the story, set against a landscape of expired foods, lightbulb collections, and a cat infested holiday home. At times funny, at others sad, this poignant film asks viewers to consider what their things mean about them, and the legacies they leave behind.