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This is everything one does NOT expect from a movie -there is no action, no beginning and no end, no linearity, and such a multitude of characters... all specifics one generally links to boring experimental or "avant-garde" movies (or just self-centered French movies)- and still "La Maladie de Sachs" works, it grips you and you can't leave it. Michel Deville's art demonstrates, better than most films, the magical hold of cinema. It takes a very real situation (one of the doctors in the village next to mine could have served as model)and transforms it into an universal example, a paradigm of man's behavior in front of illness. And despite the subject, this is an optimistic movie, at times delightfully ironical. This must have been a very challenging film for Deville -but it is not at all a challenging one for the viewer, its so easy to see because it is such a complete, uncanny success. One word of caution though: to really get into the film one needs to see it in French, and have a perfect understanding not only of the language, but of the local habits.
How do people win loneliness? A doctor can be a good help, especially if you live in a French small town. And when the doctor is an incurable idealist, everything is easier. His diagnoses are worth their weight in gold and things can begin to change slowly. The loser is probably the same doctor who cannot find peace for his heart. The directeur is a thoughtful and sympathetic observer of his hero but he works very well.
I just have seen this little jewel and found sensible and full of human valours that make the world be proud. I liked everything and imagine the dificulties for mr. deville to prepare this unbelievable casting. and what to say for the drops of music inserted in the film... I need your help, can anyone tell me which piece of the baroque music used as score and who is the author of the music.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an accurate depiction of the life of a doctor - there is no
beginning and end narrative as such, just a repetitive sequence of little
stories which can never end, from his point of view, until the doctor gives
up his practice. There can be no catharsis or climax, no moral values even
- the peaks of one story give on directly to the troughs of the next,
creating a numbing sameness, as the doctor drives around in circles, serving
Being a doctor, the main protagonist has no personality as such, subordinating his feelings, prejudices, moods to the needs of his patients, an observer, or critic, rather than a player. This blankness in the film's centre is acknowledged at the beginning as an aural montage over the black of the credits and for much of the opening scenes gives us the villagers' physical complaints and opinions of the doctor, robbing this man, who has such power over their lives, of his own narrative power - all the more surprising since, after all, the film is named after him.
The only way he can become a person, to stop being a literal object of others' creation, is to become a subject, to create himself, to write, which he does copiously, spilling out the emotions initially denied him in boxes of diaries and dictaphone tapes, eventually deciding to write the book 'La Maladie de Sachs', the film we're watching. Like the year's best films, 'Le Temps Retrouve' and 'Mansfield Park', this is a portrait of the artist, about the act of creation, its genesis and transformative power.
After all, a doctor is another kind of artist, as Chekhov, Bulgakov, Celine, William Carlos Williams all show: combining the detached and analytic with a rare access to a variety of humanity stripped of pretension, the body brought back to an identity that would deny it. Like 'Wonder Boys', the closing revelation asks us to re-interpret what we've just seen, the status of the narrative.
This power to write, to take control of his own life, is linked to Sachs' finally 'settling down' with a woman; becoming a writer AND a man. With the promise of a family to come - along with the book (and the film), two kinds of fertility. The relationship between Sachs and the very lovely Pauline is so appealing, that I won't humbug this move from abortion clinic to family planning.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this film, which passes along pleasantly enough. It's the kind of thing called 'character-driven', an implicitly superior form of cinema to 'action' narrative, in the same way that the best kind of book is a psychological novel. It's more true and lifelike, apparently. As 'Death in a French Garden' and 'La Lectrice' suggested, Deville has a very post-modern interest in investigating the very meaning and purpose of traditional stories. Despite naming Sachs' housekeeper Mrs. Borges, though, there's no getting around the fact that this film begins with a profusion of voices, a decentring of the doctor's authority (which is nearly religious - he is confessor, as well as healer - the bells toll at one point - he is the only connection in a community that doesn't seem to talk to itself (even within the same family). He even passes judgement and offers advice in the way priests used to, although he is refreshingly tolerant) and ends with a monolithic voice: HIS book with HIS name.
The relentless focus on one man as revealed through his work suggests paralells with Melville's 'cinema of process', but, I'm not ashamed to admit it: I LIKE PLOTS! The disturbing flashbacks, which seem to qualify the doctor's saintliness, are the best bits in a very literary film.
This film about a super doctor who seems to do everything fine while
being quite stressed makes everything for us to "identify" with him.
Nevertheless, I felt nothing. In that respect, it felt more like a
documentary or a cliché about "life of a clinician that 'could be
you'". The bothersome mum, middle age questions, town gossip, people
who talk too much and drift from topic to topic instead of talking
about the problem, everybody very concerned about money, how much he
charges and if the social security would cover them, the "philosophical
questions" (life, death, abortions, giving birth, sickness, addictions,
family tensions, adultery, unusual sexual practices, people who need
shrinks rather than doctors, relatives who want a certificate to get
rid of a cumbersome family member or two, selfishness, the old doctor
who hides sorrows, married men who give illusions to other women, "men
are like that", the devoted secretary, everybody judging private lives,
and mixing it with professional qualifications, the "sensitive doctor
who writes and is concerned, probably too much, about his/her patients
(specially women seem to be "his type"), the distant admirer, the nice
woman who works at the local café, the inevitable patient who turns
into a perfect lover, the old doctor's phrase at his birthday: "I
forgot you could be so involved with your patients"... And yes,
classical music, a small piece played by Reinhard Goebel which, in the
end, gives you more distress than "cure".
There's one phrase that lingered after the film was over: (Lonely woman that goes on a Sunday and starts sobbing): "I'm sorry, I'm not sick". Doctor: "But you're in pain".
The film is OK, quite funny at times, but, honestly speaking, I never understood one bit of Docteur Bruno Sachs, let alone of his alleged sickness. The ending didn't help. His love interest was cold as must be winter in rural France. I can't say I liked the film, but will pass it to my doctor and cousins who study medicine, I suppose it'll make them laugh, at least the accumulation of different, seemingly endless ailments that the human species can produce, bodily and otherwise.
I agree with wombat_1 from Sydney that the movie is stereotyped, but in the particular example he quotes, at least I understood it was a one hour interview. In fact, the grouchy mum even complains: "he charged me 2 sessions, but ...". To Gabriel Rocha from Barcelona, the musical score is Jean-Fery Rebel's "Élements" by Musiqua Antiqua Koln by R. Goebel on DG. There' a tiny sound bit on You Tube, it's the 1st movement, but IMDb doesn't let me quote a long link... (The CD is on Amazon, can't give it x the same motif.
I agree with daniel-charles2 that there's no action, no "anything", and too that it nevertheless it succeeds. But disagree on his "you need perfect French and local knowledge to get this film". I don't understand French well at all, and I don't know any of the local habits. Nevertheless I think I understood the gist of this film thou.
Alice Liddel's "numbing sameness" is very accurate, and her postmodern interpretation is brilliant. Nevertheless her insight that the housekeeper is named Borges doesn't lead her to the text where he speaks about the value of both kinds of literature, the "character" (for instance, H. James) and "action". I agree that it's a very literary film, but didn't like neither the flashbacks and even less the two "family traumas" he indulges in all the film (his dad's reassuring wristwatch, and why he doesn't want to have children) the only moments in which we see "the man behind the mask of the profession". I agree with her again they tend to "make a saint of him", and he's like a priest who confesses more than "only" practicing a trade.
Enjoy while not pretending to get "full blown cinema".
In general, I would agree with Alice Liddell's well thought out and written
critique. In general. Some minor points.
First and foremost, this movie shares a little bit with your generic cop shows, where you know that no matter how complex the murder, how many red herrings are caught, you are confident that by the end of 60 minutes (less commercials), the murderer will be caught, will have confessed, and all loose ends tied up. This show has a little bit of that. The interactions with the patients are too smoooth, too glib, too easy. For example, one doesn't turn an angry teenage girl into a model compassionate and understanding child in one 10-minute session, no matter how good one is.
Secondly, it is little colourless (I mean literally!), I thought. Is provincial France really that dreary? I kinda doubt it.
But yes, a good film overall. Not great, but good.
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