Global"On the Adamant": "human bombs", treasures of humanity and humor in front...

“On the Adamant”: “human bombs”, treasures of humanity and humor in front of Nicolas Philibert’s camera

The teenagers of the 1970s will have recognized the words ofThe Human Bomb”, title of the French group Telephone. Lyrics that resonate strangely in 2023, when we are saturated”of images, of colors” “which are not of [nous]which sometimes [nous] scares them”.

Nicolas Philibert, Golden Bear at the Berlinale: “I make films to be a little less stupid”

François, the man who sings them in what looks like a café, is what many people would call “a madman”, precisely. One of those people who, for a thousand reasons, but perhaps because of the too strong or violent feelings of the contemporary world, lose their footing.

Documentary filmmaker Nicolas Philibert claims to make films “to be a little less dumb”. To remain human, also, to observe one’s fellows. Nicolas Philibert’s cinema is an endangered species: it takes time. And he looks at people who also devote time to what seems less and less precious in the light of the dictatorship of performance: teaching (To be and to Have2002), inform (The House of Radio2013), cure (Of Every Moment2018).

Our review of “Every Moment” (2018)

Care, again, and hospitality are at the heart of On the Adamant. Consider an old barge moored on the right bank of the Seine, in Paris, on the Quai de la Rapée. L’Adamant, opened in 2010, is a day centre, attached to the Paris Center psychiatric centre. He welcomes patients on a voluntary basis. We talk, we practice and organize workshops.

Dance workshop in “Sur l’Adamant” by Nicolas Philibert. ©Cherry Pickers

Coincidence: the director was nurturing this project when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. The film takes on an additional dimension by showing this place continuing its activities, the ultimate refuge and place of socialization for individuals who, otherwise, would be left to their own devices. On the Adamant echoes The least of it (1996), chronicle of the creation of a play by Witold Gombrowicz by the patients and caregivers of the La Borde clinic.

Nicolas Philibert: “There is an authentic nursing knowledge, different from medical knowledge.”

Philibert happily places his camera in this barge filled with unforgettable beings, such as Frédéric, a slightly crumpled dandy, convinced that he and his brother inspired Van Gogh in his portraits. From a place of fragility, the director creates a kingdom populated by the “mad” of a society that is no less so. The inconvenient truths come out of their words, appear in their painting.

"On the Adamant" by Nicolas Philibert.
Frédéric, one of the patients and protagonists of “Sur l’Adamant” by Nicolas Philibert. ©Cherry Pickers

It is not the least of the successes to keep suffering or social misery at the right distance, while managing to suggest them. Nicolas Philibert respects the dignity of those who have agreed to let themselves be filmed or to dialogue with him. Out of the trust and complicity that have been established emerge delightful moments of poetry and humour. The protagonists of On the Adamant do not put on a show, but we applaud their unfiltered sagacity, worthy of the eponymous film by Ruben Östlund.

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This motionless cruise on the Adamant is a happy, joyful film, fueled by a gentle energy. “Until when ?” questions, however, the epilogue of On the Adamant about day center activity. “The longest time possible” replied the jurors of the 73rd Berlinale who awarded the Golden Bear to the film in February. A good omen for the triptych of which this film is the first part.

On the Adamant by Nicolas Philibert. 1h46

stars Arts Libre cinema
stars Arts Libre cinema ©LLB
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