Is there an afterlife? In the 1990 thriller Flatliners, five medical students attempt to find the answer through near-death experiences. Four of the students undergo a process of death (“flatlining”) and resuscitation. The film is a dark meditation on what happens when the living try to navigate the space between life and death, as the students’ past sins are brought back to haunt them.
The film, director Joel Schumacher stated at a screening at the Imagine Science Film Festival on October 19, is about amends. The characters, he pointed out, need to find grace, like Kevin Bacon’s character who apologizes to a woman he taunted in grade school. Joining Schumacher for a panel discussion of the film and the science of death were moderator Jad Abumrad, RadioLab host; Benjamin Abella, MD, from the Center for Resuscitation Science; and Christian Macedonia, MD, a U.S. Army surgeon.