Director Bertrand Tavernier provides an unexpected feminist slant to the otherwise standard sci-fi trappings of Death Watch. Harvey Keitel plays a man of the future who has had a camera implanted in his brain. The mechanism, which is endowed with special X-ray properties, is activated by the user’s eyes. Keitel is assigned by ruthless TV producer Harry Dean Stanton to secretly probe the subconscious of a dying woman, played by Romy Schneider. Stanton is only interested in the grim spectacle of what goes on inside the brain of someone who knows she’s doomed. Keitel, on the other hand, becomes increasingly compassionate—and disgusted by the tawdriness of his assignment—as he stares into Schneider’s tortured psyche.
On February 12, 1933, a 21-year-old student, Kiyoko Matsumoto (松本 貴代子, Matsumoto Kiyoko), committed suicide by jumping into the crater of Mount Mihara, a volcano on the island of Izu Ōshima, Japan. This act started a trend in Japan and over the course of the year, 944 people (804 men, 140 women) leapt into the crater.
American musician Beck references Matsumoto’s death in the lyrics to the song “Volcano” from his 2008 album Modern Guilt: “And I heard of that Japanese girl who jumped into The Volcano. Was she trying to make it back, back into the womb of the world?”