Directed by Francis Whately, “David Bowie: The Last Five Years,” airing on BBC Two Saturday, follows the rock icon on his 2003 A Reality Tour, as well as throughout the production of his last studio album, “Blackstar.”
According to Johan Renck, the director for the music video of the album’s final single, “Lazarus,” the 69-year-old rock icon discovered his cancer was terminal only three months before his death, while he was still working on the video.
According to the BBC, Renck explains in the documentary that he wasn’t made aware of Bowie’s diagnosis until after filming the video for “Lazarus,” which heavily features death and rebirth symbolism.
“I found out later that the week we were shooting is when he found out that it is over,” Renck said.
Despite the imagery that suggests Bowie was contemplating his own mortality through his music ― the video begins with the singer in a hospital bed with gauze covering his eyes ― the director denies that the music video had anything to do with his illness. The Guardian reports that Renck created the vision for “Lazarus” a week before learning of Bowie’s diagnosis.
“David said: ‘I just want to make it a simple performance video,’” Renck recalled. “I immediately said, ‘The song is called Lazarus, you should be in the bed.’ ... To me it had to do with the biblical aspect of it ... it had nothing to do with him being ill.”
Bowie kept his illness a secret from almost everyone around him in an effort to protect his family and continue work on his final album. According to the Guardian, the singer was making a sequel to “Lazarus” just weeks before his death.
“I don’t find it strange he kept his illness so private,” the documentary’s director, Francis Whately, told the Guardian. “He’d had his life picked over for 40 years and he thought he had said everything he wanted to say, there was nothing more.”
Watch a trailer for “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” below: