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BERLINALE 2023 Forum

Review: Our Body


- BERLINALE 2023: Claire Simon lifts the medical veil and throws herself headlong into the science behind gynaecological issues in the broader sense, while getting up close to these patients’ humanity

Review: Our Body

"It’s pretty straightforward, there are clear elements that we can connect together. We’ll proceed by tackling one problem at a time, brick by brick". In Paris’s Tenon Hospital, within a department treating all kinds of gynaecological issues, in the broader sense of the term, it’s a case of focusing one’s gaze and developing an overall sense of a multitude of elements before attributing them to one organic, meaningful whole. By immersing herself in the day-to-day life of this service, French filmmaker Claire Simon is adding yet another gem to an already abundant filmography, in the form of Our Body [+see also:
film profile
, which was presented in the 73rd Berlinale’s Forum section.  

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Demonstrating incredible empathic humanity and impressive scientific precision, from the measured emotions required for medical consultations to surgical procedures rummaging through bodies by way of joysticks, from birth through to the shadows of death, from the quest for fertility to the pains of endometriosis, from the sword of Damocles of cancer to dosing hormones for transsexuals… It’s an entire arc of light cast upon this female world in Simon’s documentary, which methodically explores those corporal turbulences which "weigh on love, hope, desire". And whilst "each person arrives with their own story", every one of them helps to tell a tale with universal resonance, the human body being, par excellence, a space which is as individual as it is collective. In fact, in a wholly unexpected twist, the director herself ultimately becomes the protagonist of her own film.

"It’s important that everyone understands". Gliding up and down corridors, through Tenon’s offices, laboratories and operating theatres, the camera gets up close to the doctor-patient relationship, listening in on consultations where words are carefully selected (in the context of identifying pains and expectations, life stories given as background, explanations, medical verdicts and incredibly precise explanations of possible treatments and their associated expected outcomes and risks), examinations, surgical procedures, follow-up appointments, etc. In forty or so sequences, from birth control (abortion) to options for preserving fertility, from in vitro fertilisation analysed at all stages to the ultra-technological and impossibly physical universe of operations ("don’t dissect, cut"), from first breaths to the approach of the end of life and dramatic announcements, the film lays bare all the inner workings of the human body to almost indecent levels, whilst gently allowing the oscillations of their owners’ souls to emerge (mostly in an emotionally restrained state). So many women sharing and united in their bodies. It’s a common fate shared by Claire Simon, too, who learns over the course of filming that she has breast cancer and who ultimately steps in front of the camera, alongside others ("I’m not the first person it’s happened to"), including those women who are protesting outside the hospital against gynaecological and obstetric violence. Because, as one of the activists says: "it’s our body". A female body for a feminist film.

Our Body is produced by Madison Films in co-production with France 2 Cinéma, and is sold worldwide by Films Boutique.

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(Translated from French)

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