Towards a cinema of care: "On the adamant" review

English Daily #2
On the Adamant (2023) / Yerevan Premieres
Nicolas Philibert
13.07, 22:00 Moscow Cinema Blue Hall
16.07, 14:00 Cinema House, Grand Hall

In a year with heavy-hitting fiction films featured in the main competition of Berlinale, the 2023 Golden Bear award for this humble French documentary came to many as a surprise. Ironically, this sweet little film flying under the radar of festival pundits reinforces the central thesis of its director, veteran French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert, that some stories are too easily overlooked in favor of more glitzy narratives. With On the Adamant, Philibert pays meticulous attention to the lives of people in Paris with mental illnesses, emphasizing that actually engaging with the discarded souls of contemporary society is the true triumph of the human condition. If human beings are in desperate need of being seen and heard, and cinema is based on the act of looking and listening, then Philibert’s form of filmmaking is what the medium was actually meant for. You could call it a cinema of care, the way this film shows the passage of time in a psychiatric day care center, situated in a fantastically designed boat rocking the Parisian Seine. Equal parts observational documentary à la Frederick Wiseman and more conventional interview segments you’d expect from a television reportage, On the Adamant explores the democratic and participatory nature of this facility, where the visitors are included in most aspects of its organization, from doing a bar shift, to organizing a cinema club or helping with the financial accounting. It’s almost radical to see this form of care and attention applied to everyday life, just like it feels radical to make such a tender and loving film about this subject matter.

Hugo Emmerzael