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About the 2005 edition
Rural life, landscape, memory: we offer them as the subject matter(s) of cinema – and we therefore suggest that they also be translated, right from the start, through themes such as gaze, interaction (confronting the camera), movement, work upon space, and work upon time.
Along the way we will open doors upon other worlds, both large and small, which offer prospects for future debates: initiation to images, archival images, and the territory of cinema within the territory of images.
As a conclusion, before our final assessment, we would also encourage a return to some of the themes which extend throughout a number of the brightest examples of Portuguese cinema.
Transcription of the debates
First debate, after the films by Raymond Depardon
15th JUNE, WEDNESDAY
Films shown before the debate:
Profils paysans: l’approche, Raymond Depardon
Profils paysans: le quotidien, Raymond Depardon
Catarina Alves Costa (CAC)
Margarida Medeiros (MM)
Paola Guardini (PG)
CATARINA ALVES COSTA: Let’s begin this conversation, a little difficult in being the first and the director of the films not being present. I wanted to begin by introducing the people here with me. Margarida Medeiros is a photography critic, teaches on the history of the image, and is going to put forward some ideas on the work of Raymond Depardon. Paola Guardini is an anthropologist. She organized the texts that are in the dossiers on Depardon’s films and she is going to do the translations from Italian.
MARGARIDA MEDEIROS: I saw these films on television, and the experience of seeing them in the cinema gives us a completely different view of the director’s work.
Depardon began as a photographer with the Magnum agency where he established his career, but from very early on, in the early 70s, he began to work in cinema – with the film Numéros Zéro , if I am not mistaken. Depardon’s work as a documentarist has quite a particular point of view, associated with that of the Magnum photographers. As you could see in today’s film [Profils paysans: le quotidien], some farmers have already known him for 14 years and were previously photographed by him. And in fact, in this film (of the four or five that I know, I think this is one of the most photographic), there is a strong contamination between his work as a photographer and his work as a film documentarist.
In one of the articles chosen by Paola, Depardon says that his attitude towards the cinema, as a documentarist, can be summarized in one phrase: “Life is a place of observation” (“La vie c’est un lieu d’observation”). That is, his relationship with the object is always mediated by a distance that is necessary for the observation, but, on the other hand, there is a vital relationship with these objects. For example, the short film [Quoi de neuf au Garet?, 2004] that we saw has to do with his rural origins: from what I could tell, that is the older brother, who kept their parents’ house. Depardon took a different path. When he was very young he didn’t like to speak of his rural origins, and in this film there is an attempt to reconnect, there is a connection, let us say genetic, between his own path as a person and the choice of this object, which is the rural world.
In relation to the two films of this trilogy, and on the question of time, there is a kind of parallelism between the way he films, the time the film takes, and the way that afterwards he makes us step away from this – the time of the object itself that is being filmed, a cyclic time, very slow, of rurality, in essence a time very close to death. In yesterday’s film [Profils paysans: l’approche] there is actually a funeral; here there is the idea of filming an object that is disappearing or in transformation. The farmers are always saying, “We don’t really know where this is going, what the future is going to be like.” I think that Depardon manages – through the way he films, the way he anchors the camera and the way he lets people come to us through a static shot – to give us a temporality quite opposite to that of the urban centres.
There is another dimension relating to time. The retired couple say, “Finally we don’t feel stressed.” Stress is strongly associated with the time of life in the city: it is the people living in the large urban centres that normally complain about stress, that talk about schedules, about transport, of the bustle, ultimately, of urban life. But in this film, besides the slowness of a life lived according to the rhythm of climacteric cycles, we realize that, actually, stress exists because there is a dependence on external factors, such as the climate, sickness, the seasons, that are uncontrollable and that have a great impact on the lives of these very isolated populations. There is therefore a paradox: on one hand, there is a circular life, lived in accordance with cycles, with the seasons. On the other hand, an extremely dramatic and stressful life. One of the retired farmers says, “Now I can see the snow without it causing me stress.” The snow was an aggressive factor, an affliction.
Another external factor underlying this film is the question of the low value of the cows (this was at the time of mad cow disease). The market also seriously affects the people who are dependant on agriculture. I think it is very important that this film brings us a certain awareness about the primary sector, because, on the part of the urban centres, there is a total alienation in relation to the source of products that are basic necessities.
It is interesting that Depardon films the shift to the younger generations. In the second film [Le quotidien], we see a young couple that just had a child. They are part of a generation that returned to the countryside, where they think that there isn’t any stress, that escapes from the city and returns to nature. However, in the first nine months they confront a series of problems, including bureaucratic problems, such as the impossibility of living in that house.
From the formal point of view, there is also the issue of waiting. As a director, he is systematically waiting: he places the camera in front of his subjects, people who normally don’t speak, who are accustomed to a very solitary life (there is a large percentage of single people, as we see), and waits for them to speak. The shepherd doesn’t like to speak of his annoyances – “Everyone has their problems,” he says, “Everyone keeps their problems to themselves.” There is, therefore, a hope that the word will appear on the screen, in front of us. And there is a parallel between his waiting and the recording that allows us to understand the life of these people, which in large part is built on an idea of waiting, on an expectation of what is going to happen.
There is something else that is interesting: many of the characters don’t look at the camera for periods of time, sometimes for two or three minutes of conversation; they are sideways, others clearly walk out of the frame, they don’t want to be there. The son of one of the families in yesterday’s film [L’approche], for example, was kind of sideways, and at a certain point he moved to a darker place because he didn’t want to be in view of the director. There is a capacity to wait for people to want, or not, to speak of their experience, of their reality.
CAC: Before we move to the theatre, I would like to point out two or three things continuing on from what Margarida was saying, that have to do with the more cinematic side of this work of Depardon’s.
These films are very much about a relationship of a certain awkwardness with the characters, of a distance that is assumed and incorporated into the film. The voice-over often alerts us, “It was difficult to film this person, it was difficult to get into this kitchen; despite knowing her for fourteen years, I only managed to film her now.” The film tells us about the problem of the relationship with the camera. We feel the difficulty of the silence, of the words coming out, of speech. These are two films confined to two things. On one hand, to the word. They are based on words. Often we feel that Depardon seats two people at a table, sets the camera and lets it run for as long as the reel will allow. On the other hand, there is the choice of confined spaces: the kitchen is the chosen, privileged location in these films.
More than looking towards the rural work, towards the body in movement, in festivity or at work, the director is concerned with the word. In yesterday’s film, the scenes of the bargaining over the price of the cows were, for me, some of the strongest and most dramatic, because it was a talk of ambiguity, of difficulty, par excellence, which raises the issue of communication, in which what you are saying is not what you want to say, in which what you are asking the other to say is, in essence, what one doesn’t believe in, and in which one is, therefore, always in contradiction with oneself.
In terms of the camera work, there are few camera movements. Static shots are used, with very basic editing, with jump cuts. In yesterday’s film somebody counted four: I remember the tracking shot that follows the departing van, then reframing the people; the panning shot at the funeral, at the end. There are, therefore, very few camera movements, and when they exist they are almost forced, in the sense that all of a sudden people did not do what they were expected – and therefore the camera had to follow, but almost as if annoyed, there is an idea of forcing the shot.
I wanted to bring up two funny things. The voice-over gives us objective information – where we are, in which province, which village, what time it is: “We are in February”, “We are in August”. This is information that liberates the film from everything that could be put there just to explain things that aren’t of interest to explain; sometimes this is almost meteorological information. The second is the conversation with the director, the questions that he asks. In Profils paysans: l’approche, there is a scene in which a lady is making an apple pie and puts in the little pieces of apple. At a certain moment, she begins to speak to the people behind the camera (who don’t respond), and says, “This is going to be a silent film.” In Profils paysans: le quotidien a lady asks, “Why are you filming me?”, and another lady responds, “Parce que vous êtes là.” These two scenes are paradigmatic in the way that Depardon incorporates precisely the difficulty of filming the other, the impossibility of filming the other as pure observation.
What is characteristic of these films, and that seem to me to be very present, is this kind of fragmented body (people often just appear speaking and from behind a table), the small spaces, the utilization of static shots and the issue of embarrassment.
Then there is the question of content: a deep sadness in the way that he films people. What Margarida said is very funny: for many years Depardon refused to belong to this world. When he returns, he returns to film the end, almost like someone who says, “This is over.” He has a need to film in a methodical way, covering various villages, provinces, characters, but always creating in us the idea that they are going to disappear; we look at a person and we are seeing that he or she is going to die; there is a constant presence of the death of a world, but also the physical death of the characters. There is a kind of impossibility that the younger generation will be like the old one was. The conversation about the father is very interesting, when they say that “there aren’t people like him any more,” people like a man that maintains his silence, that dedicates himself to his work. These films go in search of this.
REGINA GUIMARÃES: It occurs to me to say two things. To quote Roma Torres, nobody films anybody. The second is that the risk of this contemplative film is exactly that we are here saying something extraordinarily paradoxical: that these people have a life that is close to nature and different, in terms of difficulty, from urban life. This is the most stupid thing in the world. No life is more difficult than life in the countryside. The kind that involves having 40 cows and feeding them at the time of the hay; that is the absolute worst. There is nobody in the city, nowadays, that works like people work at those times in the countryside. I think that the risk of Depardon’s film therefore resides exactly in misleading the less-informed spectator about the nature of the rural work that is disappearing.
This is strange because the film doesn’t lean towards the festive body, the body that works, but I think that in some way it refuses to acknowledge the almost epic side of what it means to live in provinces such as Haute-Loire or Lozère, because these are not places in which you live well: the winter lasts nine months of the year and there are three months of summer. And it’s really a big nuisance, because before having animals could still mean that you were rich, but nowadays not only are you not rich, but also you are dependent on shit like the ice, the snow, the rain. It’s a little like the Portuguese region of Terra Fria, only worse. I don’t think that the film expresses this sufficiently. And if we confer to the film an aspect of transmission, then it’s here that I think it deceives people.
SAGUENAIL: It seems to me that there are different protocols in the way of filming, which are contradictory.
There is a protocol, habitual with Depardon, which is to place the camera in the kitchen, for example, and let the time pass, and let people play themselves in front of a camera, playing in time. Normally he does this with more institutional things, like emergencies in the hospital, the police car patrolling Paris at night, the police squadron, the courts. But here, there is a small difference: I didn’t count them, but I think that the interiors dominate; in certain moments he goes out, but without going the whole way. Despite the second film being called Le quotidien, we don’t know exactly how the day is organized, from one hour to the next. When he goes out, there isn’t an account of the diverse types of activities. Only some are mentioned: “Yesterday we went to the village celebration.” We didn’t see any celebration. Worse: there is information in the off-screen commentary that substitutes the event. The second film ends with the announcement of the arrival of a woman from the North. Which is almost a drama – to know if she will adapt, will marry, if her celibacy will end – and this is only mentioned in the off-screen commentary. In terms of images, we don’t have absolutely anything to indicate to us how this information came to him.
Another protocol is that of the word. At the end of Profils paysans: l’approche, Depardon almost forces the woman that spoke of Louis Bress for such a long time to say what it is that she was hoping for, what it is that she worries that the neighbours might say, etc. Today, in the first film [Le quotidien], he begins with Marcel – who refuses to speak and whom he pesters: “It’s because you don’t have heirs”; the other is already crying and he continues to watch; the camera is fixed, it tries to follow him, but at a certain point he moves out of the frame.
These are completely different protocols. And that’s where the problem lies: at the same time everything is rich, but fragmented. It seems to me that he didn’t define what it is that he is talking about, or define other things.
The implicit, above all in relation to the spectator, seems enormous to me... The spectator is probably going to be an urban spectator, that’s true. But what these rural people represent isn’t defined. Some are landowners, and there we have the issue of the family. But the connection with family, he already dealt with it many times in photography and in films about the photos he took of his father. Well, these films should go further, and it doesn’t seem to me that they do. He doesn’t establish who is a landowner and who is only a fermier (someone who makes use of rented land). We are only shown examples of what subsistence farming is like in France, similarly to those who live off the muddy land in the Northeast of Portugal. It’s an anachronism. This, he doesn’t say it, is a kind of vision, I would say, of that idea of life in the country that emerged in the sixties, when people from the city wanted to return to the countryside.
Within the implicit, there are many smaller pieces of information. Celibacy, the difficulty of the winter and the impossibility of leaving: nothing about the resolution of these problems. The Haute-Loire, where half of the small farms in the film are located, is a province of France where ten times more alcohol is consumed than the French average; there aren’t any images to as to give an impression of the climactic conditions that, in the winter, are in fact unbearable.
There are contradictions: the non-communication between people. It’s true. But at the same time there is a need for solidarity. But this isn’t explored more deeply. It’s evoked, but it isn’t clear.
REGINA GUIMARÃES: It’s like the work swapping in Trás-os-Montes. At this level, it’s exactly like the work swapping, but this isn’t said either.
SAGUENAIL: What I wanted to say is that I saw three hours of a film which is still on-going, and I still don’t know what Depardon wants to show me. By the way, the title itself, “profiles” and not “portraits”, indicates that it’s something lateral – and this makes me question myself. The film has ingredients that completely condition my reading. Two moments of music in each film: entry, exit. Off-screen commentary: to give very important information once in a while, absolutely unnecessary information once in a while, and above all to make it noted that there are relationships with the “self” – but afterwards this relationship with the “self” isn’t made explicit in the way the camera is placed. The position of Depardon’s static camera corresponds to a place that he occupies... Well, this is a series of questions, interrogations; it’s a shame that he isn’t here... The film raises more questions for me relating to protocols than to the object that he is filming.
MM: I don’t agree with this idea that he deceives the spectator about the rural world, because I think that the film doesn’t have this archivist, systematic, inventory-of-activities side to it. In an interview that he gave, Depardon said that this option would have been tarte à la crème, that is, a more standard documentary about rural activity. What he looked for was those people and an ontology of life in those places. On this point, the more irregular and fragmented, and less systematic and descriptive way that he filmed highlights an emotional intensity in relation to the people, to the very tough way of life. I think this is visible in certain details, for example when the retiree says, “Now I can see the snow without it being unsettling. Now I can sleep, get up at 8:30 and not 5:30 in the morning.”
CAC: In relation to the protocols, in a certain way I agree with Saguenail when he says that there seems to be a contradiction between, on one hand, a static camera that waits for people to develop, in front of it, their space and their conversation and, once in a while, some very imposing questions, that we feel are based more on insistence than on a pre-existing emotional relationship of a closeness, of a desire to speak. And, in the case of Depardon, I think this is to assume the problem of the relationship he has with all of that. I think that it can be interpreted in this way.
BRAM RELOUW: I also feel the film is a bit deceptive because of this crystal clear cinema format in which it is fixed. You have all the time to look, and all the images become beautiful, because this time romanticises the existence which is claimed to be bad and hard. You look at the images, it’s a sort of a melancholic look, it almost expresses the beauty of these people and lifestyle, which are stated not to be beautiful. That, I find a bit deceptive.
I also have a big problem with the time-jumps like “four months later”. He is forcing narrativity into the story, choosing randomly from these different people, and I’m not sure it does justice to them individually. I’m sure their lives are a lot more tedious, difficult and lonesome than we get to see here. We just see this few highlights because the filmmaker feels they are relevant for the story he wants to tell about them. I find it a bit difficult to take.
MOHAMED AL ROUMI: The film transmits to us the last instances of a life that will disappear without pity, and which wasn’t followed by social reflection. I don’t think that he wanted to show us anything other than these last instants, and that he himself had become estranged from this rural world.
REGINA GUIMARÃES: I understand this side that the end of someone’s world can be interesting. It’s the end of the world of this person who is connected, for some reason, to the world.
Now, the issue of observation raises the greatest doubts for me, because I think that there is a thin line between observation and surveillance, and this can be felt in the film in certain moments. Forcing things to happen. A little like those horrible films on television in which the parents film little children almost dying because they think that it’s sweet to film domestic accidents with a video camera.
In second place: what my colleague is saying, to me, isn’t true. The question of rural life, of the importance of older people in rural life, is a question that is studied in Europe, quantified by anthropologists and sociologists. Everybody knows that the disappearance of these people will be a catastrophe. In Portugal it’s already catastrophic. Why do we have so many fires? We don’t need terrorists. The country burns every year because we don’t have people any more, we don’t have wardens of the landscape any more. These people receive subsidies. If they are going to raise cows in the Massif Central, it is because for many years the EEC has obliged them to raise cows. They speak badly of Europe, but afterwards not much is said objectively about what Europe gives them. All these rural activities are subsidized. The question is to know whether this kind of subsidy should really be attributed in this way, forcing people to raise cows, for example, that might go mad. But this is also another of the unsaid items in the film. I think that if the European institutions were not completely idiotic, they would make it their business to effectively put an end to desertification, under the threat of seven-eighths of Europe to transform into virgin forest, don’t you think? But this isn’t in the film, it isn’t.
CAC: We can spend a whole day talking about what isn’t in the film. What’s interesting is for us to understand what it is that these films are trying to get at, what is actually there – and I think that there are very subtle smaller scenes, but that are there to say things. When at the end he says, “These youths now need a lot of papers to live in the country”, I thought, “The word is being substituted by paper.” The negotiation through orality, through proximity through the word, is substituted by paper, by writing, but still continues. That is, the idea that worlds end and that there is nothing to follow is strange, because societies are always in constant transformation. I think that the film doesn’t tell us that this is going to end, it is talking about this and at the same time showing us, incorporating all of the continuity. We have to hold ourselves to what is there and try to deconstruct it, because many films could be made from this material.
ERIKA KRAMER: It seems to me that the film is based on something that is inside the head of the filmmaker, giving me very little about the life of the peasants. And what I know about the life of the peasants, it seems to be a kind of a class thing. We see that the next generation is a family raising exotic horses for riding, for people who have money, not work horses or horses to eat. We know that the houses are going to be second houses, the little village and the last farmers are surrounded by people who will go there to escape city life once a year. We know that this young woman, who’s a very romantic new-generation farmer (probably biological), is one trace of hope, but is also… I’m talking about subsidy. And we have this very elegant man who is given money because he’s going to turn the house into a place for musicians. Or very interesting images of the country, probably something we know all about, more than we know about peasants. We probably touched that countryside more than we’ve touched the countryside of the peasants.
The film represents who we are, more than… Maybe we have ancestors who were in the land, but this is a life more closely related to cinema, this new world in a countryside to take over. It’s a whole new way to think about economy and class base. We have a cultural and economic class base. And the film is made by somebody who spends his own lifetime with the peasants, but I feel he is much more comfortable with cinema, the city base and the second home base than with the base of the people who are dying off. And his discomfort made me very uncomfortable towards the film; and I didn’t feel like I could really resort to it for anything very useful. I wouldn’t pass this film on to somebody wanting to learn about this subject or to get closer. The director had access to some photographic proximity to people because of his background and desire, but I always felt he was coming from Paris, not from his roots.
Someone pointed out three hours of watching: I took very little from those three hours, either from a cinema point of view or from an informational point of view, but I think what he saw for the future is true. I think there’s a right balance in his film in information.
JOSÉ MANUEL COSTA: I am not at all in agreement with the question of the lack of information and contextualization in the film. Above all because I think that the films that tell us the most are those that begin by refining and making of each thing something more important. The films that tell less end up being those that say the most. Even because, it’s a known process, more information begs for more information, and we are always distancing ourselves from that which the cinema might be useful to.
My reaction was exactly the opposite. I felt that these two films interested me more than many other films of his.
Saguenail finished by saying what I also think, but with a negative dimension that is exactly the opposite of my opinion: it’s a film that makes us think much more about the relationship established in the film and the problem of confrontation than about that reality in itself. I think that this is the subject of the film, and that what it does is tell us that it can only speak about that world by speaking about the relationship. As the film moves forward (the film isn’t finished), the problem of the relationship gets stronger and stronger. I think that it’s curious that between the first episode [L’approche] and the second [Le quotidien] it would seem that the first is about the question of the relationship itself, of approaching people, how to reach that point, and the second would already have been filmed from the inside. And it is in the second episode that one feels, even more, the tension of the contact. For me, in the second episode there are more difficult, strong scenes; the problem of the silence of the others and of his own silence. The tension established in the footage is even stronger still. As if, to the degree that the film was diving into all of that, it were to always go deeper, to discover its own subject, which is in fact that relationship. And it has to do with the double relationship Depardon establishes with that world in real life. Almost everything that you referred to that is unsaid, I think that it’s said once only (and incidentally I don’t know if it’s said only once). He clearly says in the film, when he addresses certain people, “You had a beautiful life”, or rather, he says, “I came here because, in the first place, I came from this, I lost this. And my perspective on this, right from the beginning, is that I thought this ought to have been something good.” And I think that nothing is hidden because their point of view is different, because this something good is something hard. I think that this is the subject of the film.
There is another curious dimension to the film. He says, “I think that this is a universe in which one can have had a good life, but that it is ending”, enunciating his nostalgia. But at the same time, this is to a large degree projected by them, in ricochet. There are many references to the issue of the parallel between that life and the life of the cinema. Including in its toughness, the dimension of working hours. And they and Depardon, many times, make all kinds of references to something that is growing, and I am not sure if it doesn’t begin to grow as one of the main topics of the film: where we are in relation to work, what is the work of cinema, of the photographer.
I only saw Raymond Depardon speak after a film once. And one of the things he said was that, contrary to Anglo-Saxon films in which a camera is placed in front of people and they begin to talk nineteen to the dozen, his is a different cinema, based on something other. It was ambiguous for me whether the question is cinema – that is, its gaze, its approach, its method – or if it’s the difference of that specific reality, when one films people who from the beginning are not used to talking and who speak very little. But of course the film is about this. Even in relation to his own work and the tradition of direct cinema – and I think that deep down he was talking about Wiseman when he said this thing of “talking nineteen to the dozen”, of the verbalization that is so central in Wiseman’s films. Like someone who says, “I want to do something different.” I think that he too wants this because he found something different. And one of the things that interested me (and we will see this in the other films, during the week) was to see how it is that today people with a tradition based on direct cinema and on the so-called observational cinema begin to again raise issues questions that had been eradicated: the off-screen text, the interview, the direct confrontation between the people being filmed and the observer. But they try to reintroduce this in a different way. The way in which he makes use of people isn’t a mise-en-scène by those others being filmed, it’s his own mise-en-scène. The table is a stage, which he explicitly creates. But he makes this device so evident and so explicit that I think it’s a point of departure. It isn’t a problem, it’s a point of departure. He tells us, “Let’s go and cast the cards again and see how it is possible to speak about this.”
The issue of the off-screen commentary is curious. He has a rule: he begins with natural sound, the people speak and a little bit later he situates the scene. It’s a detail, that has to do with the subtleness that he tries to establish there, and that is obviously also another kind of violence, because at a certain point, when he, Depardon, stops talking, his silences weigh heavily. He takes that man, who talks about his celibacy, to the limit, and at a certain point stops asking all of the questions that we already have in our heads. But not asking these questions is almost as violent as the questions he did ask.
SAGUENAIL: But then I think that the film is infested by images that aren’t of interest. If it’s about the fact that all the kitchens at his disposal were basically the same (the same shelving with the boxes on top, the table in front, the modern but already old stove), why is it that in the middle he inserts images of these same people, that aren’t themselves working with cows (or that sometimes are, like one milking until the milk comes out, and it takes a long time)? It seems as if there is some confusion about the definition of the object. There are magnificent, very interesting scenes, there are details that give a lot of information: the discussion with the vet about the small farms where it is possible to arrange some wine is startling for someone who knows a little of this region, but it doesn’t follow on. Whoever isn’t inside the subject does not understand the scene. There are surprising things that I become frustrated with. In contrast to the others, there is a man with long hair, and he asks if this is a sign of contestation. The other says that it is, and we don’t hear anything else. It’s over. I am left saying, “Why then?” It’s a question of defining what we are filming. We can accumulate images and everything can be touching. Despite everything he edits, organizes the film. As a filmmaker, I only manage to edit a film when I have defined what it is that I am really saying, and sometimes you don’t manage to find this in the footage very quickly. I know this problem. If I am going to edit the film to show to others, then I need to have this defined. I think that he didn’t define it.
GIUSEPPE MORANDI: The filmmaker, a child of small property owners, knows very well what values are expressed in his film: property, inheritance, acquisition and the market. They are his values and the values of all of the protagonists of the film, but they aren’t my values. Succession, the continuation of small properties: it’s a level above the people that I filmed in I Paisan, who have their arms, their work, as their only property.
KEES BAKKER: I agree that many times there’s no follow-up on the things he touches upon. For you it’s uneasy, but I don’t share that unease. On the contrary, I think it’s the strength of the films. There are many aspects that can be touched upon when we are talking about the rural area, the way of living, the vanishing of a kind of exploitation by farmers in France. But Depardon clearly has not made an educational film. He doesn’t want to explain everything. There are so many things that remain to a great extent implicit, and make the viewer actively think about them.
I think Depardon chooses a style which is very hybrid but very rigid at the same time. On the one hand he is observing people. On the other hand he is trying to (in a style that would give Richard Leacock a heart attack, probably), by imposing interviews (for example with the guy with long hair), not just to aim for certain answers to his questions, but to show the solitude of the people, and the way they are trapped in their own lives. Not trapped in the sense that they were forced, but because they chose to. The same guy says clearly, “No, I want to continue like this, I don’t want to retire.”
At the same time, he’s very conscious of why he chooses certain images. For example, when he enters the province of Haute-Loire, we see a shot of a farm, a road, a very misty landscape, or shots of the mountain with the small village. These are not just establishing shots. They are also there to show that people live in an isolated area which is at the same time part of the society – the negotiations, the market with all the problems involved, the regulations: they are all implicit in this film. There is only one reference to the EU, in one of the dialogues: “Europe is killing us.” But that political discussion is touched by Raymond Depardon in a way that also envelops the whole of the film, the whole three hours.
SAGUENAIL: I am not exactly attacking Depardon. What I want to say is that he is making a film about himself. He is showing us, elite spectators, who are receptive, something that he has in his head. I raise a question for myself: who am I doing this for, to whom am I going to show this. I made a film about the Portuguese Northeast, where I defined a strategy according to what I wanted to show to the people I was filming. And this orientated all of my work, because I knew to whom I wanted to speak. Here I have the impression that Depardon already acquired such stature that he could almost speak only to cinephiles. And with this... I don’t feel at ease!