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Sarah Klingemann

To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the Saumery psychiatric clinic is organising a conference on
the theme of “traumatic intelligence”. “ While preparing for the party, patients and carers
discuss the concept together at length. They are a stone’s throw from Chambord, site of
the enchanted Bas-Choeur (FID 2020). Sarah Klingemann knows this place well, and places
her camera among the faces, equally close to the patients and those who help them to live
intelligently with their suffering. The filmmaker is not really documenting the preparations,
but rather the common elaboration of a vital reflective process. This is the free and vibrant
practice of institutional psychotherapy, the legacy of Jean Oury that lives on within these
walls. And if the frames waver, if the homage is ever so slightly irreverent, it is in contagious
harmony with the gentle madness that inhabits this place.
(Cyril Neyrat)

Interview with Sarah Klingemann

In Bas-Choeur (FID 2020), the patients and medical staff of the Saumery clinic were among the audience invited to Chambord castle to hear a very singular concert. L’Heure du goûter uses the celebrations for the 80 years of this clinic to draw a portrait of this place and the people who live and work there. What ties you to this place ? What led to you directing this film ?

My three month residence in the Chambord castle for the preparation of Bas-Chœur included sharing my work with a specific audience : I wanted to work with this clinic that is situated just on the domain’s doorstep, that works according to the principles of institutional psychotherapy, because I’ve been interested in this open approach to psychiatry for a long time. As I wanted to explore with them the part of Bas-chœur that deals with the audience, I suggested filming people listening to music : firstly during the concert filmed in Chambord, but also during a 24h stroll through their own castle, the Saumery clinic, which led after the fact to another autonomous film, Grande Fugue. The year after these two shoots, in 2018, the clinic, with the support of its therapeutic club and the Grand Chambord community of communes, invited me to return for the celebration of its 80 years. On the one hand to project Grande Fugue, the editing of which I had just finished, and also to direct a film with the patients on the theme of Traumatic Intelligence, which was the subject of the symposium that took place over the two days of celebration. If Grande Fugue came from my own impulse, the second film was commissioned by them, following on the first encounter. The first title card indicates : « A film directed by Sarah Klingemann with the patients of Saumery ». What did this codirection consist of ? How did you work with the patients ? We can guess at a rather light filming apparatus. Can you describe it ? In order to deal with this topic, I suggester bringing Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus and asked the patients to do the same, to bring a book that inspired them. In front of the camera, we exchanged about our readings and started debating. In parallel, we wanted to meet the medical staff on their workplace, in order to understand in particular what the motivation had been for holding a symposium and having a film made about such a subject. As far as I'm concerned, I wanted to film the locations in which this therapeutic labour takes place – even though some of the carers initially seemed reticent – secret places, but that are familiar for the patients. Without any medical staff to assist me, nor any technical staff, I had no choice but to take care of both image and sound myself, while being introduced on the premises by the patients, and deliberately involving them on screen, in front of the camera and when looking for the frame. Knowing that the film would be very « talkative », I immediately warned them about a possible weariness at constantly hearing people talking. We went looking for images that might work with those of the interviews, which would in some way enable speech to strengthen the conversations being shown and heard. Filming the images of the preparations for the celebration enabled us to better understand the location in its dimension as a collective undertaking. Then, during the two days of the celebration, everyone was busy helping, taking part in a workshop, watching… I found myself filming the symposium, as well as the party and its moments of grace, alone.Beyond the initial contract, but in keeping with the commission for a collective film, I suggested coming back for five days, in order to watch the first twelve hours of rushes with the patients. Together, we decided on which preparation sequences we would edit with the interview sequences. We systematically tried to keep everything that breaks lose, that disrupts, is broken off, to give a lot of importance to the suspended time that characterises every day in Saumery, for life to be very present in the theoretical talks about Traumatic Intelligence. We had to bring in the body, gradually at first, to offset the flow of words, then progressively to let it settle in, to give it its rightful place, and why not, let it triumph.

The documentary about an institution, on the occasion of the preparations for a celebration, is almost a genre in itself. Your film belongs to it, but on the margins, and goes beyond it in many ways. Firstly by developing, through the attention that is given to the relation between patients and medical staff, a defence and illustration of institutional psychotherapy. Was this your ambition ? Could you comment on this political, discreetly militant dimension of the film ?

“We therefore have the impression we are involved in politics, even when we talk of music, trees, or faces,” wrote Deleuze in Deux régimes de fous. This second filmic experience in Saumery allowed me to understand the shared bonds that can be established between my position and that of the patients, between an artistic commitment and that of care. The experience of the filmic construction, most notably during the editing, with its moments of doubt and resolution, inherently complex, seemed related to therapeutic work. To a project of (re)building oneself, but at the same time independently.
By wondering, during the editing, about the meaning we should give to the film, we faced the question of who we were addressing it to : unanimously, the patients also wanted the film to exist beyond the walls of the clinic. I would have liked to make a film a year with Saumery. For the outside, so-called « normal » world to be able to see and hear the listening that unfolds there, to destigmatise madness, to allow the suffering to be heard. A film a year, brief and striking and that would circulate, would have seemed to me a truly political act, that would bring into question a very clear disengagement in the required manifestations of citizenship. But this desire for exteriorisation was not shared by all. And making films for them to be screened requires a lot of investment and money, that are hard to bring together.

Your film also plays with the genre to which it seems to belong through its tendency, already present in Bas-Choeur, towards fantasy, an irreverent benevolence. The way you capture, when a young woman speaks them, the words that give L’Heure du goûter its title is a perfect example of this. How would you describe the position you gave yourself, as a filmmaker, to film the life of thought between these walls ?

In any society or institution, everything is not perfect, and I owed it to myself to keep a distance, to maintain my independence, my freedom, to create, using your own words which I like a lot, an irreverent benevolence ; in other words my ambition to find a cinematographic, critical, and poetic position.

Interview by Cyril Neyrat

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Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 46’

Original Version : French.
Subtitles : English.
Script : Sarah Klingemann with clinic’s patients.
Photography : Sarah Klingemann.
Editing : Sarah Klingemann with clinic’s patients.
Sound : Sarah Klingemann.
Mix : Emmanuel Soland
Calibration : Ishrann Silgidjian
Production : Sarah Klingemann (Les hommes-maison).
Filmography : Bas Choeur, 2020. Grande Fugue, 2019.Après L’œuvre, 2018. Direct Paris-Mer(s), 2017.L’invitation Au Voyage, 2015. La Mer Du Sable, 2015. Lettre Vide, 2013. De Skfv À Abarfemmes Vers Abarquelconque, 2011. Le Grand Tour – Diapositives Et Trois Voix Féminines En Cinq Actes, 2011.